Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/31/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/31/2010The big news of the day concerns President Obama’s decision to send missile defense forces to the Persian Gulf to protect against a possible Iranian missile strike. The Defense Department is sending Patriot missile batteries to defend its Sunni friends in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait against the Shi’ite menace in Iran.

In other news, heavy snow — almost as heavy as fell yesterday here in Central Virginia — has struck northern Germany, causing chaos on the roads and isolating some of the islands in the Baltic. At the same time, a record cold snap in Sweden is expected to continue. In a possibly unrelated development, Swedish knife crime has recently reached epidemic proportions.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JH, KGS, RRW, Sean O’Brian, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Greece: EU Warning, Situation Serious; ECB, Courage Needed
Greece: Almunia, EU Commission Ready to Intervene
The Battle of the Titans: JP Morgan Versus Goldman Sachs
 
USA
Rifqa Bary: Muslim Parents Reject Deal With Christian Daughter
The People Behind Jimmy Carter’s Letter on Israel
The Sharp Dressed Man Who Aided Mutallab Onto Flight 253 Was U.S. Government Agent
Virginia Islamic School’s Expansion Met Protests
 
Canada
How Gun Registration and Confiscation Works in Canada
 
Europe and the EU
Atitech: Catalan Partner, Agreement Signed in Madrid
But Religion Has Nothing to Do With it: Minarets Are Political Symbols
Germany: Snow Causes Chaos in the North
Islam Welcomed in France by 54% of Frenchmen
Italy: Paris Now Further Away by Rail
Member of the Swiss Political Party That Pushed for Minaret Ban Converts to Islam
Snow Causes German Traffic Chaos With Three Deaths
Spain: Military Airbus Maiden Flight, 2 Years Behind Schedule
Sweden: Fatal Shooting in Central Malmö
Sweden: Stabbing on the Increase Say Hospitals
Sweden: Record Cold Snap to Stay
Swiss Industrialist Faces Trial Over Asbestos
Terrorists ‘Plan Attack on Britain With Bombs Inside Their Bodies’ To Foil New Airport Scanners
UK: Ministers Slammed for Speaking at Meeting With Muslim Who Justified Killing British Troops
Video: UK: Film Seized ‘Shows Children Being Radicalised’
Video: UK: Driver to Fight Fine ‘For Blowing His Nose’
Wilders to Show Fitna in London in March
 
North Africa
Libya: Italy: Scholarships to Colonialism Victims’ Descendants
Libya Quashes Swiss Businessman’s Jail Term
Pioneer of Moroccan Press Freedom Shut Down
Russia Announces Libya Arms Deal Worth $1.8bn
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Berlusconi Doubts Wisdom of Gaza Pullout
Elections Only if in Both West Bank and Gaza, Abbas
Minister Reassures Settlers, Freeze Fictitious
 
Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon: Conflict Widens to Syria
Diplomatic Scandal in Tehran: Loves Mails From the German Embassy
US Raises Stakes on Iran by Sending in Ships and Missiles
 
Russia
Russia: The Supreme Court Confirms: Jehovah’s Witnesses Outlawed in Rostov
 
South Asia
Pakistan Taliban Chief Reportedly Killed in U.S. Drone Strike
Role of the OIC in Afghanistan Gets Emphasized at the International Afghanistan Conference in London
 
Far East
Kazakhs Protest Against China Farmland Lease
 
Immigration
A Modern Tale of Meatpacking and Immigrants
Italy: Asian Unionist’s Death Sparks Political Row
Lewiston, ME to be Used as Assimilation Model for Other Cities
Switzerland: Controversial Deportation Decision Postponed
 
Culture Wars
Spanish Bishops: Anyone Who Votes for Abortion Law Lives in Sin
 
General
Amazongate: New Evidence of the IPCC’s Failures
UN Climate Change Panel Based Claims on Student Dissertation and Magazine Article

Financial Crisis


Greece: EU Warning, Situation Serious; ECB, Courage Needed

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 10 — The emergency in Greece has burst onto the agenda of the EU leaders meeting in Brussels, who have called for courageous measures from Athens, along with president of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet. Greek Prime Minister, Giorgio Papandreou — who has just arrived from Athens, where he called for national unity — is trying to reassure his European partners: we are ready to accept full responsibility and carry out great changes in our economy. This time — despite categorical denials of any risk of bankruptcy by President of the Euro-group, Jean-Claude Juncker — none of the heads of State around the table is hiding his great concern over a crisis which risks hitting the whole Euro zone. The Swedish presidency of the EU admits that Greeces debt situation is very serious and difficult to resolve, and calls for courage, time and reforms. Meanwhile Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel is inviting Athens to make all the efforts needed to respect the criteria of the EUs Stability and Growth Pact, aware of the risks to the stability of the single currency. This will not be easy, seeing as Athens is expecting a public debt of 12.7% in 2009 and 9.4% in 2010. With the debt (estimated at around 300 billion euros) at 120% next year. However, the Greek Premier — who has welcomed his European colleagues solidarity and is convinced of the full support of the EU — is promising radical new measures in 2010, to further reduce the deficit and return it as quickly as possible within European parameters, mainly through a cut of over 10% in public spending. The road map for bringing Greeces public finances under control will be laid out by the European Commission by the beginning of February at the latest, when Brussels will send new recommendations to Athens, with new expiry dates for the reduction of the countrys deficit and debts.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece: Almunia, EU Commission Ready to Intervene

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 8 — The EU Commission “is monitoring the situation in Greece very closely, in close collaboration with the president of the Euro group, and is ready to assist the Greek government to put together a recovery and comprehensive reform programme as part of the measures provided for by the treaty for Eurozone member states,” said EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, in a statement. “We are aware of the fact that the sustainability of Greek public finances has attracted the attention of the financial markets and ratings agencies,” said Almunia, confirming how “a difficult situation in a member state in the Eurozone is an issue that regards the entire Euro area.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Battle of the Titans: JP Morgan Versus Goldman Sachs

Or Why the Market Was Down for 7 Days in a Row

We are witnessing an epic battle between two banking giants, JPMorgan Chase (Paul Volcker) and Goldman Sachs (Geithner/Summers/Rubin). Left strewn on the battleground could be your pension fund and 401K.

The late Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard wrote that U.S. politics since 1900, when William Jennings Bryan narrowly lost the presidency, has been a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties would sometimes change hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players. No popular third party candidate had a real chance at winning, because the bankers had the exclusive power to create the national money supply and therefore held the winning cards.

In 2000, the Rockefellers and the Morgans joined forces, when JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan merged to become JPMorgan Chase Co. Today the battling banking titans are JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that gained notoriety for its speculative practices in the 1920s. In 1928, it launched the Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a closed-end fund similar to a Ponzi scheme. The fund failed in the stock market crash of 1929, marring the firm’s reputation for years afterwards. Former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers all came from Goldman, and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rose through the ranks of government as a Summers/Rubin protégé. One commentator called the U.S. Treasury “Goldman Sachs South.”

Goldman’s superpower status comes from something more than just access to the money spigots of the banking system. It actually has the ability to manipulate markets. Formerly just an investment bank, in 2008 Goldman magically transformed into a bank holding company. That gave it access to the Federal Reserve’s lending window; but at the same time it remained an investment bank, aggressively speculating in the markets. The upshot was that it can now borrow massive amounts of money at virtually 0% interest, and it can use this money not only to speculate for its own account but to bend markets to its will.

But Goldman Sachs has been caught in this blatant market manipulation so often that the JPMorgan faction of the banking empire has finally had enough. The voters too have evidently had enough, as demonstrated in the recent upset in Massachusetts that threw the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Democratic seat to a Republican. That pivotal loss gave Paul Volcker, chairman of President Obama’s newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board, an opportunity to step up to the plate with some proposals for serious banking reform. Unlike the string of Treasury Secretaries who came to the government through the revolving door of Goldman Sachs, former Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker came up through Chase Manhattan Bank, where he was vice president before joining the Treasury. On January 27, market commentator Bob Chapman wrote in his weekly investment newsletter The International Forecaster…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

USA


Rifqa Bary: Muslim Parents Reject Deal With Christian Daughter

The Muslim parents of an Ohio girl who ran away from home claiming she feared harm for becoming Christian have rejected a deal meant to resolve the conflict.

Mohamed and Aysha Bary of New Albany, Ohio, withdrew their consent in a court filing that alleges misrepresentation in the plan approved Jan. 19.

The Barys and their daughter, 17-year-old Rifqa Bary, had agreed she would stay in foster care and they would undergo counseling instead of going to trial to determine where the girl should live.

The Barys now allege that Franklin County Children Services are permitting Rifqa to communicate with a Florida pastor and his wife who helped her run away last summer.

[Return to headlines]



The People Behind Jimmy Carter’s Letter on Israel

In the weeks since, the abrupt nature of the Carter statement has led many to speculate about its purpose and the former president’s motives.

What very few know is that this first step toward reconciliation was the private initiative of several influential members of Atlanta’s Jewish community, whose ties to Carter date three decades and more. Conversations behind the confession/apology lasted a full year.

The former president’s grandson Jason Carter, a Decatur attorney, served as go-between.

This was a case of Jewish outreach to the former president, not vice versa. Which puts Jimmy Carter’s statement in a different light, and no doubt makes it more significant, not less.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Sharp Dressed Man Who Aided Mutallab Onto Flight 253 Was U.S. Government Agent

Please note that in the article that follows, I am not claiming that the U.S. Government knew Mutallab had a bomb or intended to hurt anyone on Flight 253 when the U.S. Government let him board.

Since our flight landed on Christmas Day, Lori and I have been doing everything in our power to uncover the truth about why we were almost blown up in the air over Detroit. The truth is now finally out after the publication of the following Detroit News article:

detnews.com/article/20100127/NATION/1270405/Terror-suspect-kept-visa-to-avoid-tipping-off-larger-investigation

Let me quote from the article:

“Patrick F. Kennedy, an undersecretary for management at the State Department, said Abdulmutallab’s visa wasn’t taken away because intelligence officials asked his agency not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.

“Revocation action would’ve disclosed what they were doing,” Kennedy said in testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Allowing Adbulmutallab to keep the visa increased chances federal investigators would be able to get closer to apprehending the terror network he is accused of working with, “rather than simply knocking out one solider in that effort.”‘

Now it all becomes apparent. Let me detail everything we know about the “Sharp Dressed Man” (SDM).

1. While being held in Customs on Christmas Day, I first told the story of the SDM.

2. My story has never changed.

3. The FBI visited my office on December 29, 2009, and showed me a series of approximately 10 photographs. None were of the SDM. I asked the FBI if they brought the Amsterdam security video to help me identify the SDM, but they acted as though my request was ridiculous. The FBI asked me what accent the SDM spoke in and I indicated that he had an American accent similar to my own. I further indicated that he wore a tan suit without a tie, was Indian looking, around age 50, 6’ tall and 250-260 lbs. I further indicated that I did not believe that he was an airline employee and that he was not on our flight.

4. During the first week of January, 2010, Dutch Military Police and the FBI indicated that over “200 Hours” of Amsterdam airport security video had been reviewed and it “Shows Nothing”.

5. The mainstream media picked up the “Shows nothing” story, which slanders my story. After visiting my office twice for a flight 253 special, Dateline NBC and Chris Hanson indicated that my story was “Unsubstantiated rumor dispelled as myth” and our story did not air during the tv special.

6. On January 2, 2010, I receive a call from a flight 253 passenger who indicated to me that it may be in my best interest to stop talking publicly about the SDM because he believes I am “wrong” in what I saw. He did not make any claim that he saw the SDM boarding gate incident at all. This call was made out of the blue after he made a “revelation” of this event on January 1, 2010. I later discover that this caller has ties to the U.S. Government.

7. On January 20, 2009, current Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Michael E. Leiter, made a startling admission. Leiter indicated that: “I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another.”

8. On January 22, 2010, CongressDaily reported that intelligence officials “have acknowledged the government knowingly allows foreigners whose names are on terrorist watch lists to enter the country in order to track their movement and activities.”

CongressDaily also reported, citing an unnamed “intelligence official” that Michael E. Leiter’s statement on January 20, 2010, reflected government policy and told the publication, “in certain situations it’s to our advantage to be able to track individuals who might be on a terrorist watch list because you can learn something from their activities and their contacts.”

9. On Janury 22, 2009, ABC News published an article that shoed a change of position in the government’s official story. Please see the following blog post for more information:

haskellfamily.blogspot.com/2010/01/initially-discounted.html

The U.S. government provided no explanation for the reason my story was initially discounted.

10. The SDM could not be from Al Qaeda. When speaking at the counter in Amsterdam, the SDM said the following “He is from Sudan, we do this all the time”. Who is “we”? If it is Al Qaeda, you surely don’t make such a statement to an airposrt security official.

11. The SDM could not be from airport security. The SDM did not dress in any secuirty uniform and did not appear to have any security badge. The SDM did not speak with a Dutch accent. The SDM dressed in a suit coat and pants. If the SDM was a higher up security official, he would not have to convince the ticket agent to let Mutallab on the plane without a valid passport. Instead, he would just order her to do it.

12. Could the SDM have been a U.S. Government official? He dressed in a suit and not a security uniform. Check. He indicated we do this all the time. Could “we” be the U.S. Government? Check. He spoke Enlish with an American accent. Check. Would he need to convice the ticket agent that this was a normal procedure to allow boarding without a passport? Check. Would he have the ability to obtain such clearance? Check. Could he enter this security area even though he wasn’t a passenger? Check. Would the ticket agent likely refer this request to a manager? Check. Would the U.S. Government not want this information public and try to hide it? Check.

13. The Amsterdam security video has not been released. A much more minor airport security violation occurred at the Newark New Jersay airport several days after the flight 253 incident. That video was released shortly thereafter.

14. Senators Levin and Stabenow, as well as Congressman Dingle, all refuse to discuss the matter with me.

With the information we already knew and the admission from the above referenced Detroit News article, we have evidence and claims made by government officials that the U.S. Government wanted Mutallab to proceed into the U.S. in order to obtain information on other terrorists involved with him. Once we take this statement and add it to my eyewitness account of a “Sharp Dressed Man” escorting Mutallab through the boarding process and allowing him to baord without a valid passport we can make the connection that the “Sharp Dressed Man” was a U.S. Government offical/agent.

The reasoning behind the following events now becomes very clear:

1. The reason Mutallab got through security despite the numerous warnings for months before our flight.

2. The reason why there have been so many lies from the U.S. Governemnt attempting to discredit my eyewitness account.

3. The reason why the Amsterdam airport security video is being hidden from the public.

4. The reason why the government is proposing a “Failed to Connect the Dots” account of the failure. The truth is too damning.

5. The reason why Mr. Wolf of the Obama administration indicated on the Keith Olberman Show that the White House was investigating a possible “intentional act” from within the U.S. Government as the reason for the Christmas Day attack.

6. The explanation for the cameraman and why he hasn’t been identified (Obviously, he was another U.S. Government agent) whose job was to film Mutallab for some governmental purpose.

7. The reason for the lax security after landing, which can be attributed to foreknowledge of the possible suspects involved.

8. The reason for the failure to search or secure the plane and passengers after landing, which can also be attributed to foreknowledge of the possible suspects involved.

9. The corporate media’s attempt to bury my eyewitness account.

10. Carl Levin’s, Debbie Stabenow’s and John Dingle’s intentional avoidance of my story and failure to return my calls/emails.

11. Janet Naploitano’s statement that “The System Worked”. From her point of view it probably did as this WAS PART OF THE SYSTEM!

[Return to headlines]



Virginia Islamic School’s Expansion Met Protests

In Northern Virginia, a private school needed the local county’s approval to expand to serve more students. This would have hardly raised an eyebrow had it not been for one particular detail: The school is Islamic, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic Saudi Academy, located in Fairfax County, has long been under the microscope of its opponents. But for residents along the two-lane country road where the school sits, the debate was transformed from a local land-use issue into a heated discussion about the school, its teachings and the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States.

For people like Pat Herrity, supervisor of Springfield District, where the school is located, this should only ever have been about traffic.

“I can’t imagine putting another car every six seconds on Popes Head Road,” he says, standing in the ISA’s driveway counting the cars as they drive by. In August last year the county’s Board of Supervisors approved the ISA’s bid to expand its campus and double the number of students who attend, to around 500.

Herrity says that will just clog up the traffic on this road. The driveway he’s standing in is the academy’s only entry and exit point. Students who drive to school will turn into the driveway, up the hill and past the security guard to the school. Herrity says the additional traffic will make a small road seem even smaller and delay everyone. He says he voted against the bid. This is his area and the people who live here are his constituents.

People like Beth Parker, who lives next door. She was driving by the school and pulled over after spotting Herrity. She’s mad that politics got in the way of what she says was strictly a land-use issue.

Community Questions Mission Of School

But scratch the surface and it’s clear that there’s more to the issue than traffic. And that was clear when the board met to discuss the academy’s application for expansion. People lined up for hours to speak at public hearings. Speakers would first bring up traffic issues or other logistical matters, then invariably turn the talk toward religion.

The most recent debate regarding the Islamic Saudi Academy isn’t the first. In 2008, members of the Traditional Values Coalition held a demonstration outside the Alexandria, Va., campus of the ISA after the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom asked the State Department to secure the release of all Arabic language textbooks used at the school.

“I submit no Catholic textbook has anything near the venom and demonstrated incitement to murder as these Saudi textbooks,” Cosgrove said, “and rather than rushing to congratulate them on what they’ve removed, ask them what it was doing there for 20 years in the first place?”

People traveled from other states to speak at the hearings. Conservative Christian groups got involved. And parents who send their kids to the school went on the defensive. People like Rezan Fayez, whose 7-year-old son goes to ISA, stood up to defend the school’s curriculum and her son’s experience there.

“He can speak, read and write Arabic almost as well as he can English; he’s learning Islamic studies, understanding between Muslims and non-Muslim,” Fayez said. “If we were breeding terrorists, if there was any tinge of truth to what you’ve been hearing tonight, you would be hearing about it from the students.”

Iman Kandeel, a former ISA student and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, also spoke up. “In addition to the strong background I got in math and science, I also learned about giving back,” Kandeel said. “We are not taught Shariah law; we are not taught to destroy the Constitution.”

Doubts About Curriculum And Staff

But there are issues. A former valedictorian of the school is serving a life sentence for plotting to assassinate President Bush. A former principal was arrested because instead of reporting a complaint from one of his students about sexual abuse at home, he deleted the report and returned the child to her father.

And then there is the debate over the textbooks.

“These are ideological materials that are indoctrinating young students in hatred,” Ahmed says. “If you are not a believer in their interpretation of the religion, you are not protected. Your blood, your honor and your property is up for grabs. And that explains suicide bombings a lot.”

In 2007 a bipartisan federal commission on international religious freedom called for the school to be shut while the government examined its textbooks. The commission was concerned that the school promoted religious intolerance and violence against people who aren’t Muslim. The school was closed temporarily and erased paragraphs from its textbooks in response to the inquiry.

Political Fallout Lingers

For now, the controversy continues, as does the pressure on local politicians. Michael Frey is on the Board of Supervisors. He voted for the school’s expansion and says he still gets criticized for it. One man approached him at his local supermarket on a Sunday morning. In an aggressive tone, he said he couldn’t believe Frey could consider himself a conservative after voting the way he did.

“I said, ‘I don’t believe anybody who wants local government to be reading texts and making decisions on schools based on what they teach is a conservative,’ “ Frey replied. “To me, that is one of the biggest intrusions you could possibly imagine.”

The State Department agrees. Conservative Christian groups that have lobbied for the school to be closed say that because it’s funded by the Saudi government, the State Department should intervene. But the State Department says ISA is a private school, not a foreign mission, and it has no role in accrediting or managing the school.

Frey points out that two Christian schools also filed applications to expand last year in Fairfax County and no one questioned their textbooks.

“How do I know this Christian school isn’t teaching hatred against non-Christians?” Frey asks. “I didn’t read their texts, but if you want me to start to base land-use decisions on that [it’s a] terribly, terribly slippery slope.”

For now Fairfax County is waiting for the school to submit its site plans. Before expansion can even begin at the academy, the county will have to install left- and right-turn lanes into the driveway from Popes Head Road. So that two-lane winding country road will need to get a little wider.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Canada


How Gun Registration and Confiscation Works in Canada

[This is the sort of system the gun-grabbers want to bring to America.]

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Atitech: Catalan Partner, Agreement Signed in Madrid

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 25 — A Catalan partner for Atitech, a Naples company: the Mazel Ingeneiros group, an international leader in engineering services for aeronautics, automobiles and aerospace, naval and rail transportation, whose headquarters is in Barcelona, is to buy 30% of Manutenzioni Aeronautiche, the parent company of Atitech along with partners Alitalia-Cai and Finmeccanica. Atitech is the former Alitalia maintenance division. The investment agreement, which will lead to the entry of the Catalan group into the social capital of Manutenzioni Aeronautiche with 3 million euros, was signed today by the President and Managing Director of Meridie Spa and President of the Industrial Union in Naples, Giovanni Lettieri, and executive president and sole director of the Mazel group, Julio Elvira, at the Italian Embassy in Spain, in the presence of Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano. Manutenzioni Aeronautiche is the company which finalised the acquisition of 100% of Atitech last November 19 along with Alitalia-Cai and Finmeccanica, and registered 55 million in turnover in 2008.(ANSAmed). Meridie, the investment company which controls 98% of Manutenzioni Aeronautiche, will reduce its stake to 68% following the entry of Mazel. We have found a first-class industrial partner in Mazel who will be able to guarantee major commercial relations and a high level of experience in the civil and military aeronatics sector, contributing to the launch of Atitechs internationalisation process, stated Giovanni Lettieri after the signing of the agreement. The objective is to create a European hub for engineering and heavy maintenance of aircraft at the Atitech premises in Capodichino. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



But Religion Has Nothing to Do With it: Minarets Are Political Symbols

Il Giornale, December 3, 2009

As tothe decision by Switzerland to ban minarets, I would like first ofall to say that, in my years as a correspondent from Jerusalem, I hadto bear the Muezzin’s call from a nearby mosque every night at 4 a.m.,much before the cock crow. And nor far away from him came many othersimilar voices. However, I never thought that the Muezzin had to besilent. In his village, he does not sing to be heard also from me, butto call his followers to pray. This is religious freedom and Jerusalemgives it to everybody. Thinking that, down there, he was trying toconvey a political message in addition to a religious one, would mean togo well beyond what is legitimate for a person who is democratic,liberal and respectful of other people’s culture and religion.

Actually, except for some pathological cases, Islamophobia is aninvention of the U.N. Indeed, in 2004, the U.N. Secretary General KofiAnnan officially defined it as the cause of frustration for manyMuslims, without mentioning the rampant jihad and other huge problems.In fact, in most countries of origin and abroad, the official Islam hasnot accepted the universal declaration of human rights. But it hasresponded with other initiatives such as the Cairo Declaration, whichstates that “anyone has the right to support what is right and to warnagainst what is wrong and evil in line with the Islamic Sharia”.

Theultimate reason that led the Swiss to say no to new minarets, is notpoor respect for religious freedom. It is not even the loss of identitythat is driving us — erroneously — to ask for the cross on our flag. Ithas nothing to do with this. There are many simple reasons ofdiffidence that prevent from wishing for the expansion of Islam. Norshould we imagine that this choice invites the Muslim to embraceextremism. There are indeed other reasons behind jihadism — that is fedonly by itself and by its unflinching decision to convert the world.The Swiss watch the TV and are concerned: the Sharia leads to deathsentences, to the hanging of homosexuals, to stoning people to death.In general, Islamic countries are ruled by dictatorships, thedissidents suffer, they die. The Christians are persecuted, let alonethe Jews. The groups and the countries that cry their faith louder arealso the most evident ones: certainly both Ahmadinejad’s Iran and theHezbollah, or Hamas or Al Qaida, represent negative, terrorist models.

Ofcourse, the Islam is not all like this. But, let us talk about it. Letus thoroughly examine the problems without being accused ofIslamophobia; we have a problem, either we solve it by looking at theIslamic immigration in its eyes, or soon this concern will turn intorejection. And the idea that the true Islam is elsewhere with respectto jihad is not able to placate these fears within the public opinion:there are few and rare instances in which a brave Islamic voice speaksto guarantee the respect for democracy, sexuality, convertedindividuals, dissidents. It is the politically correct denial thatmakes jihad prosper: in Switzerland, after the arrest of eight peoplewho allegedly collaborated to some suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia, thereaction of the head of a local Muslim group was that “the problem isnot the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, but the intesification ofIslamophobia”. In the USA, the same happened after the Fort Hoodincident.

It is forbidden to laugh for some cartoons that talkabout Islam. It is forbidden to deal with the terrifying oppression ofwomen, it is disgraceful to stress that there is an evidentidentification between the Islam and totalitarian regimes. It ishorrible to raise the issue of honor killing, polygamy and ofdisfiguring women with acid that push us back in time (yes, many ofthese episodes result from tribal and not by religious habits, butplease let us look at the geographical and sociological distribution ofthese episodes) and especially it is generic to speak about jihad…And then, since whatever is concrete is forbidden, the reaction isagainst the symbols of the Islam.

There are millions of mosqueswithout minarets in Islamic countries. But if they are built close tochurches, they are taller, more proud and powerful. The construction ofan Islamic place of worship has a series of explicit secular meaningsthat always reiterate the holy competition of the Islam to conquer theworld. Many mosques have been built on ancient Jewish and Christiantemples.

A revolt against the politically correct on the Islammay occur anywhere and the trigger will not be religious intolerance:it does not belong to us or to Switzerland or to Europe.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Germany: Snow Causes Chaos in the North

More than 25 centimetres of new snow disabled traffic throughout northern Germany on Saturday, particularly in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Baltic islands have been cut off.

The low pressure front known as “Keziban” has brought more brutal winter weather to Germany. Storms, new snow and several-metre-high snowdrifts have disrupted rail and road traffic throughout northern Germany. One Interior Ministry spokesman said that conditions were “even more drastic” that the storm front “Daisy” from a few weeks ago in some areas.

Hundreds of road accidents have been reported throughout Germany, with around 70 cars apparently stuck on the roads of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The entire public transport system in the town Rostock has been shut down, as have several rail services in the area.

Ferry services to and from Germany’s Baltic Sea islands have also been partially shut down, with the island of Hiddensee completely cut off.

The police and rescue services have been severely hindered by the weather, and the police have appealed to the population to avoid unnecessary journeys. The German Weather Service extended its storm warnings to huge parts of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the morning, and warned against entering wooded areas, where the weight of the snow threatens to bring down many trees.

All football matches in the state have been cancelled, including Hansa Rostock’s second division match against Union Berlin.

The extreme weather has extended to other states. A total of 42 people were injured in around 300 accidents reported in North Rhine-Westphalia, and a man was killed on the A16 motorway near Bedburg. The A33 motorway has been closed between Paderborn-Sennelager and Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock.

A driver was also killed in Bavaria after his car skidded off an icy road, while a truck crashed on the A21 in Schleswig-Holstein, blocking the motorway for several hours.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Islam Welcomed in France by 54% of Frenchmen

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 10 — A majority of the French, 54%, say that the Muslim religion is compatible with community life, against 40% who consider it to be incompatible and 6% who have no opinion, according to a survey carried out by CSA for Le Parisien. The survey comes after the referendum in which Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets. A debate is in progress in France on national identity, initiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy, and on the burqa. French Justice Minister proposed today to refuse the French nationality to a man whose wife was wearing a full veil. Regarding the Jewish religion, the same question was answered by 72% saying that the religion is compatible with community life, 21% see it as incompatible and 7% abstained. Fourteen percent sees the Catholic religion as incompatible, and in this case 4% abstained. According to the president of the French council for the Muslim religion, Mohamed Moussaoui, that 54%, though it is a positive result, particularly in the current debate in which everything is often lumped together, it shows that people don’t know the Muslim religion and have an irrational fear for it. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Paris Now Further Away by Rail

From 13 December only one train a day will provide direct link from Milan to French capital

PARIS — The Eiffel Tower has never looked so far away from Milan. From 13 December only one train a day will provide a direct link from Milan to the French capital. The move, dictated by technical considerations, will cause disruption on a heavily used route as the year-end holidays approach. Alternative routes lengthen the journey by one to five hours. The drastic reduction of service also raises questions about a part of the network where in coming months Trenitalia could be competing with itself, or one of its partners.

CHANGES — From 13 December, only one high-speed TGV will leave Paris for Milan at 7.42 am. The return train will leave Milan’s Stazione Centrale at 4.10 in the afternoon. These are the only direct trains, a reduction in service of 50%. The TGV at 3.24 pm will terminate at Porta Nuova station in Turin, forcing passengers for Milan to transfer to Porta Susa station for the connecting service. This will inconvenience the more than 40,000 passengers who typically choose to travel to Milan or Paris by rail in December. The route attracts half a million passengers a year with an average occupancy rate of 70% but journey times will now lengthen by more than one hour. The decision was taken by Artesia, the company that manages the route, and was dictated by the need to upgrade rolling stock to comply with new Italian regulations for high-speed trains. Normal service will be resumed in March, according to Artesia. At least in theory.

COMPETITION — Reseau Ferré de France (RFF), which owns French rail infrastructures, has revealed that Trenitalia has acquired the right to operate its high-speed trains on the Milan-Paris-Milan route from 14 December. Trenitalia claims it is awaiting formal authorisation. Meanwhile, Trenitalia’s booking web site offers high-speed Frecciarossa trains as a night-time option for passengers travelling to Paris from Milan. There are two changes at Turin Porta Susa and Chambery for a total journey time of 12 hours. The offer, not yet on sale, in effect puts Trenitalia in competition with itself since Artesia, a joint-venture owned equally by France’s SNCF and Trenitalia, operates day and night services on the same route.

EQUITY STAKES — SNCF plays down what is an ambiguous situation. “We will ensure the Paris-Milan service and co-operation with Trenitalia remains the preferred solution, if shared”. It is one way of silencing rumours of a possible SNCF partnership with Luca di Montezemolo’s NTV, in which the French hold a 20% stake, on the Milan-Lyon-Paris route. The strategy is “not on the agenda” according to NTV. For Trenitalia, the French market is key, not just on the Milan-Paris line but also Genoa-Paris, via Marseilles, one of the busiest routes. It remains to be seen when Italian trains will actually be able to operate on the two routes, although according to RFF, this will probably be in June. The date again raises the issue of competition with Artesia and Trenitalia’s partners, SNCF, but the Italian rail company prefers not to comment.

CISALPINO — The SNCF portal offers travellers from Milan to Paris an alternative to the Artesia TGV on Lyria, another TGV, to Lugano, Geneva or Zurich in Switzerland, before changing to a Cisalpino service. This would lengthen the journey by one to three hours and there is another problem. Cisalpino, a joint venture between the Italian and Swiss railways, was wound up in September and will cease to operate on 13 December.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Member of the Swiss Political Party That Pushed for Minaret Ban Converts to Islam

The news about Switzerland’s ban on the construction of minarets has made the headlines, providing shocking evidence of the strength of increasing intolerance in Europe. I shall be writing more about the minaret ban and its implications later, God willing, but right now I wanted to share an interesting side note.

Daniel Streich was a member of the Swiss People’s party (SVP), the political party that pushed the minaret ban initiative. Streich is a military instructor in the Swiss Army and a local politician in the commune of Bulle. Formerly a devout Christian, he converted to Islam•and kept it a secret for two years.

Streich has left the SVP, made his conversion to Islam public, and has denounced the SVP’s anti-Muslim campaign as a witch hunt. As far as I can tell, this story has not broken in the English language press. So, I translated a news article on Streich from German to English, published at the Swiss news site Twenty Minutes Online. Here it is…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Snow Causes German Traffic Chaos With Three Deaths

Heavy snow and high winds have caused traffic chaos across Germany with at least three deaths reported nationwide.

Conditions closed some motorways and caused long traffic jams on many others.

North Rhine-Westphalia, which includes the cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf, recorded 300 accidents on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Public transport in some areas has been shut down and police have advised people not to travel if possible.

The traffic chaos in North Rhine-Westphalia led to one death and 40 more people injured, while in Bavaria another two people were killed on frozen roads.

Flights at some airports were cancelled or delayed.

Sport hit

Bus services in the northern city of Rostock were suspended and sports fixtures cancelled after 30cm (12in) of snow fell in one night.

Police warned motorists that if they got stranded they might have to wait hours for help.

“People should just stay at home,” a spokesman said.

But despite the weather, some intrepid Germans were determined to enjoy the weekend.

In Hamburg hundreds of families skated across the frozen Alster Lake, which forecasters said was a once in a decade phenomenon.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Spain: Military Airbus Maiden Flight, 2 Years Behind Schedule

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — The A400M military transport plane has carried out its maiden flight today in Seville, with almost two years of delay to the schedule. The four-engined plane took off at 10:15am from the San Pablo aerodrome, where the Spanish plant Airbus EADS Company is based, in front of an audience of 2,500 people invited from all over the world, reports the company. These included King Juan Carlos and authorities from the seven partner countries of the project: Germany, Spain, France, UK, Turkey, Belgium and Luxembourg, who will analyse the consequences of the delays to the development of the A400M. The airplane will allow helicopters and combat aircraft to refuel in flight and to quickly transport large cargos over long distances. It has a cargo capacity of 37 tonnes, is 45.1 metres long and 14.7 metres high. Its range can reach 6,389km with a cargo weighing 20 tonnes. 184 A400M airbuses have been ordered so far from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Spain, Turkey and the UK. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Fatal Shooting in Central Malmö

A 26-year-old man was shot dead in Malmö in southern Sweden early on Sunday morning.

The man, who was reportedly shot in the central Stortorget square at around 3am, was given first aid by ambulance crews but died shortly after being brought to hospital.

There are unconfirmed reports of several shots being fired. One eye-witness told the news agency TT that the shootings took place in a car park on the square.

Other unconfirmed reports indicated that shots were fired outside a fast food restaurant.

“I cannot say exactly where he was shot, we need to wait for the results of the technical investigation,” police spokesman Mikael Persson told TT, adding that the man lived locally.

“He is known to have been involved in criminal circles, but we cannot comment on which ones for now.”

Persson could not confirm whether the police are looking for one or more suspects.

Police teams cordoned off the crime scene shortly after the shooting, and forensic teams, including a police sniffer dog, are examining the car park and the surrounding area.

“Half the square is sealed off. It’s packed with people and many are upset and wondering what happened,” said a witness.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Stabbing on the Increase Say Hospitals

The number of assaults, especially stabbing, are increasing, according to statistics from the emergency wards at two of Sweden’s biggest hospitals.

Ten years ago, it was rare that anyone came to Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg with a serious knife injuries, now it is part of an everyday routine, Gregor Nilsson, trauma coordinator at Sahlgrenska, tells Swedish Radio News.

“There are more of them, and the number of serious wounds from stabbing have increased. People are stabbed in more than one place and in their vital organs,” Nilsson says.

In 2002 ten people with life threatening wounds from stabbing came into the emergency ward at Sahlgrenska. Last year, there were 68 such patients.

Also at the Söder Hospital in Stockholm, a similar development has been noted. The number of seriously assaulted patients have almost tripled in seven years.

“There are more injuries to more organs. People have been hit more and stabbed more, says Gregor Nilsson.

But the researchers at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention say they have no data to show that the violent crimes have increased since the 1990-ies. Only very few hospitals keep statistics of the victims of violent crimes, which makes it hard to draw conclusions from it, according to Felipe Estrada, research director at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Record Cold Snap to Stay

The Swedish Met Office (SMHI) has issued a weather warning for mountainous northern areas and says extreme cold and snowy weather conditions will continue next week.

Northern Sweden can expect temperatures in the region of 25 degrees Celsius below freezing and the Met Office warns of strong winds and a high wind-chill factor in the mountains of Lapland. Most areas will continue to get light snowfall, while heavier snow is forecast for the southern region of Skåne.

The recent Arctic weather conditions have made roads dangerous in many areas, but in and around the capital the situation has improved due to lighter snow and slightly warmer temperatures and no recent accidents have been reported.

Linköping in south-central Sweden had its coldest temperatures since 1942 yesterday with 29 degrees below freezing and the sub-zero conditions are set to continue.

“It will be below freezing in the whole country for as far ahead we can forecast,” meteorologist Elin Torstensson told news agency TT.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Swiss Industrialist Faces Trial Over Asbestos

A major trial opens in Italy on Thursday in which a Swiss industrialist is accused of co-responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of workers.

Stephan Schmidheiny, one of Switzerland’s richest men, and his fellow accused, the Belgian Jean Louis Marie Ghislaine De Cartier, were majority shareholders in the Italian Eternit Genova company, which owned four asbestos factories in Italy.

Thousands of people are expected to turn up for a demonstration outside Turin’s law courts as the trial opens.

Asbestos victims and their families have organised buses to take them to the city, many of them from the small town of Casale Monferrato in the northern Italian Piedmont region, home until 1986 to one of the factories belonging to Eternit.

In the past few decades some 1,400 people have died from the consequences of asbestos dust in this area alone. About 40 new cases are reported every year. And the story is not over yet: the latency period for the typical incubation period for mesothelioma, the cancer typically caused by asbestos, is 20-40 years.

The accused

The case submitted by state prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello is that Schmidheiny and Cartier knew of the dangers of asbestos but did not take the necessary measures to protect those coming into contact with it.

If found guilty, they could face up to 13 years in prison.

The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is also being summoned ex officio, since the Italian state is accused of exercising its duty of supervision.

The Italian insurance institution for occupational illnesses is acting as joint plaintiff. It is demanding damages of €246 million (SFr375 million).

Justice for the families

Having spent more than three months examining the case, the investigating magistrate Cristina Palmesino decided in July that the charges were admissible.

About 3,000 sufferers and their families are involved as a civil party in the trial, the biggest in the history of Italian justice. It is expected to last for two or three years.

“This is an incredibly important moment for the victims and their families,” said Zurich journalist Maria Roselli, whose 2007 book ‘Die Asbestlüge, Geschichte und Gegenwart einer Industriekatastrophe’ (The asbestos lie, the past and present of an industrial disaster) was the fruit of a detailed investigation into the production of this building material and its fatal consequences.

“Many of them gave up believing it would ever happen, so the mere fact that the trial is starting is seen as a small victory for justice,” she said — an opinion echoed by representatives of the victim help organisations.

Schmidheiny absent

Stephan Schmidheiny will not appear in court himself, his Italian lawyer Astolfo Di Amato said.

“The company invested 70 billion lire (SFr70 million) in safety between 1976 and 1986 and earned nothing. That can be seen clearly in the accounts,” Di Amato maintains. That means there is no question of there having been any speculation on the backs of the workers, he said.

Peter Schürmann, Schmidheiny’s spokesman in Switzerland, said he was never really an owner of the Italian Eternit works, nor did he have any operational role there.

“However incomprehensible this trial is from Mr Schmidheiny’s point of view, there is at least one good thing about it: it will clarify the responsibilities which form the basis for the charges being laid against him.”

Compensation

Schmidheiny has always maintained that the asbestos issue is a “social problem” and cannot always be solved on the basis of “individual responsibility”.

In the run-up to the trial the Swiss industrialist offered victims’ families compensation of €60,000 if they abandoned their civil action.

Given that trials in Italy can last for ever and their outcome is uncertain, many families accepted the offer. According to Di Amato 700 have done so, while Schürmann puts the figure at 1,500 people.

The trial is being observed closely by Swiss asbestos victims. For if the accused should be found guilty, Swiss victims could bring civil actions later, explained Massimo Aliotta of the Association of Asbestos Victims in Switzerland.

Some 200 cases are still pending which involve workers employed in the Swiss Eternit factories but who died in Italy. But under the statute of limitations, no criminal case about the asbestos issue can now be brought in Switzerland.

Switzerland’s highest court has made this clear. “Even if Stephan Schmidheiny were to be found guilty in Italy, time has run out for a trial in Switzerland,” Aliotta admitted.

Gerhard Lob, swissinfo.ch (adapted from German by Julia Slater)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Terrorists ‘Plan Attack on Britain With Bombs Inside Their Bodies’ To Foil New Airport Scanners

Britain is facing a new Al Qaeda terror threat from suicide ‘body bombers’ with explosives surgically inserted inside them.

Until now, terrorists have attacked airlines, Underground trains and buses by secreting bombs in bags, shoes or underwear to avoid detection.

But an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.

Security services believe the move has been prompted by the recent introduction at airports of body scanners, which are designed to catch terrorists before they board flights.

It is understood MI5 became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal internet ‘chatter’ on Arab websites this year.

The warning comes in the wake of the failed attempt by London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

One security source said: ‘If the terrorists are talking about this, we need to be ready and do all we can to counter the threat.’

A leading source added that male bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants.

Experts said the explosive PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) would be placed in a plastic sachet inside the bomber’s body before the wound was stitched up like a normal operation incision and allowed to heal.

A shaped charge of 8oz of PETN can penetrate five inches of armour and would easily blow a large hole in an airliner.

Security sources said the explosives would be detonated by the bomber using a hypodermic syringe to inject TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) through their skin into the explosives sachet.

PETN — the main ingredient of Semtex plastic explosive — was used by Richard Reid, the British Al Qaeda shoe-bomber, when he unsuccessfully tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in December 2001.

In November, a Somali man who attempted to board a flight carrying a syringe, liquid and powdered chemicals was arrested before take-off.

The airliner had been due to fly from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu to Dubai.

The Somali was carrying a nearly identical package to that of Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate it by injecting TATP from a syringe.

Abdulmutallab had stuffed explosives down his underpants as the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam made its final descent to Detroit carrying 280 passengers.

But the detonator fluid set his clothes on fire rather than the device, and he was overpowered.

Security sources fear the body-bombers could pretend to be diabetics injecting themselves on airliners, Tubes or buses in order to prevent anyone stopping their suicide missions.

Companies such as Smiths Detection International UK, which is based in Watford, Hertfordshire, manufacture a range of luggage and body scanners designed to identify chemicals, explosives and drugs at airports and other passenger terminals around the world.

These include high-specification X-ray equipment that could identify body bombs.

But one source with expertise in the field said: ‘They can make as many pieces of security equipment as they like but there is no one magic answer that can spot every single potential terrorist passing through.’

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee, said: ‘Our enemies are constantly evolving their techniques to try to defeat our methods of detection.

‘This is one of the most savage forms that extremists could use, and while we are redeveloping travel security we have got to take this new development into account.’

Senior Government security sources confirmed last night that they were aware of the new threat of body bombs, but were not prepared to make any official comment.

           — Hat tip: JH [Return to headlines]



UK: Ministers Slammed for Speaking at Meeting With Muslim Who Justified Killing British Troops

Two Cabinet Ministers are facing questions over their judgment after appearing at the same event as a Muslim activist who once suggested that the killing of British troops in Iraq was justified.

Azad Ali spoke at yesterday’s Progressive London conference, which was also attended by Equalities Minister Harriet Harman and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.

Mr Ali, a Treasury civil servant, was suspended from his job last year after The Mail on Sunday revealed a series of controversial comments on his personal website, including one in which he praised Abdullah Azzam, Osama Bin Laden’s mentor.

He described the late Azzam as one of the ‘few Muslims who promote the understanding of the term Jihad in its comprehensive glory’.

He then quoted Azzam’s son as saying: ‘If I saw an American or British man wearing a soldier’s uniform inside Iraq I would kill him because that is my obligation. If I saw the same soldier in Jordan I wouldn’t touch him. In Iraq he is a fighter and an occupier — here he is not. I respect this as the main instruction in my religion for Jihad.’

Last week, Mr Ali lost an attempt to sue The Mail on Sunday over its article, which was published in January last year. Mr Justice Eady said Mr Ali ‘was indeed . . . taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified’. The judge added that Mr Ali’s case was bound to fail and had about it ‘an absence of reality’.

But at yesterday’s conference, organised by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Mr Ali defended Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been condemned by some Western countries as terrorist organisations.

Mr Ali took part in an event called There Is No Progressive Imperialism, during which the panel was asked by a Lebanese man to comment on Hezbollah, which he accused of ‘actively stopping the progress of [Lebanon]’.

Mr Ali responded: ‘If you ask the people of Lebanon, Hamas are known as people who build. Hamas provide an unbelievable amount of social services, as do Hezbollah, medical services and everything. These are the things that people are fighting — this is the imperial mindset, the colonial mindset.’

Later, Mrs Harman spoke about a ‘progressive agenda to stop the Right in 2010’. Meanwhile, Mr Miliband spoke about tackling climate change on the platform vacated by Mr Ali.

Last night Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘The Labour Party relies on Muslim votes and it is pretty obvious that these Ministers are trying to ingratiate themselves with Labour Party members before a General Election. If you are a member of the Cabinet you should be more careful about who you deal with and put the interests of the country before narrow political interests.’

Secretaries of State at the same event as someone who is praising Hamas. It gives people who support terrorist organisations credibility and legitimacy.’

A spokeswoman for Ed Miliband said: ‘Ed Miliband is invited to speak on climate change at a number of different events and is happy to do so.’

She added that Azad Ali spoke at a ‘completely separate event’.

A spokesperson for Mrs Harman said: ‘Harriet did not share a platform with Mr Ali. You should speak to the organisers of the event about who they have invited.’

In a statement released by the conference organisers, Mr Ali said: ‘I have never called for or supported the killing of British soldiers or any violence whatsoever. My work with the Muslim Safety Forum and response to the terrorist attacks which took place in London are a testament to this.

‘I have given presentations to senior police officers and other officials on how dialogue is the best way forward, and not confrontation and the use of violence. At these meetings, I have openly condemned Al Qaeda as abhorrent and very far removed from Islam.

‘I have been an active community worker for more than 20 years, and my ethos has always been dialogue and engagement.’

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Video: UK: Film Seized ‘Shows Children Being Radicalised’

Counter-terrorism police say their discovery of a film of children being encouraged to hold guns is evidence of attempts to radicalise youngsters.

The Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) in North West England revealed they found the film during a raid in Manchester.

Officers say it shows two children, aged about three and six, playing with a pistol and a Kalashnikov rifle.

Material seized separately included the advice: “No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training.”

The footage, which police believe was filmed in Pakistan, was uncovered on the hard drive of a computer during a raid carried out under the Terrorism Act 2000. Police have not revealed when the material was seized.

‘I want to kill’

Police believe the firearms are real.

The video shows a girl and young boy playing with guns and a man’s voice says: “What do you do with the weapon?”

He answers his own question: “I want to kill the infidels [non-believers].”

A senior officer in the CTU, who cannot be identified for security reasons, said: “We believe this was filmed abroad.

“We have no idea who the children are. We were shocked to find it at the house. We have no reason to believe this is faked. The guns are real.”

Police say they have also found flash cards, used to teach young children the alphabet, in another house raid.

The officer said: “We found a series of flash cards and documents on how to raise Mujahid children [who will fight for Islam]. The cards were written in English — and instead of having M for Muhammad they had M for Mujahideen…”

“They have the potential to indoctrinate. It just shows the mindset of some people and what we are up against.”

Police say they also found documents downloaded from an extremist website which instructs parents to raise Mujahid children.

The documents say: “The key is to start instilling these values in them while they are babies. Don’t wait until they are seven. No child is ever too young to be started off on Jihad training.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Video: UK: Driver to Fight Fine ‘For Blowing His Nose’

A man says he will fight a fine given to him by the police for blowing his nose while driving.

Michael Mancini said he was sitting in stationary traffic in Ayr, with the handbrake on, when he used a tissue to clean his nose.

A police officer issued Mr Mancini with a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of his car.

He has refused to pay the £60 fine and the case may now proceed to court.

Mr Mancini spoke to BBC Breakfast about what happened.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Wilders to Show Fitna in London in March

Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders will travel to London on March 5 to show his short video compilation Fitna at the invitation of two members of the British upper house of parliament, the House of Lords.

Last February Wilders was refused entry to Britain to screen his film because the government said his presence would be a threat to public order.

But in October, a British immigration tribunal ruled Wilders should not have been refused entry.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Libya: Italy: Scholarships to Colonialism Victims’ Descendants

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI (LIBYA), DECEMBER 10 — One hundred young Libyans who are descendents of the fighters in the resistance movement against Italian colonialisation have been granted scholarships for Italy by the People’s General Congress (the Libyan parliament). The scholarships are part of Italy’s payment of compensation to Libya for damages during the colonial period provided for by the Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation Treaty signed in Benghazi on 30 August 2008 by Silvio Berlusconi and Muammar Gaddafi. In addition to belonging to a family of the ‘mujahiddin’ (the name of the Libyan resistance fighters), other requirements for the scholarships included a university degree or a diploma from an institute recognized by the Libyan government in one of the following subjects: engineering sciences, medical sciences, documentation, archive studies, computer and information technology, agrarian sciences, hard sciences or the Italian language. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libya Quashes Swiss Businessman’s Jail Term

A Libyan appeal court has overturned a 16-month jail term handed down to a Swiss businessman on a charge of overstaying his visa.

Rachid Hamdani, thought to be staying at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, was convicted in absentia along with another Swiss businessman in December.

Analysts suggest the case was brought in retaliation for the July 2008 arrest of Muammar Gaddafi’s son in Geneva.

Mr Hamdani and his co-accused also face charges of illegal business activities.

“The appeal court acquitted Rachid Hamdani and overturned his prison term for overstaying” the visa, Mr Hamdani’s lawyer, Salah Zahaf, told AFP news agency on Sunday.

Another trial

Correspondents have said the case is linked to the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife in Switzerland on charges, later dropped, of assaulting two servants.

Libya retaliated by cancelling oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.

In the same month the Gaddafis were arrested, Libyan authorities detained Mr Hamdani, who works for a construction company, and his fellow countryman Max Goeldi, an engineering firm manager.

The pair were later released on bail and went to stay at the Swiss embassy in Tripoli, before they were convicted in absentia on an immigration offence in December last year.

Mr Goeldi has also appealed against his jail sentence and a ruling is due on 4 February, according to AFP.

Both men still face charges of illegal economic activities and a verdict in that case is also expected next week, said Mr Hamdani’s lawyer.

The pair are accused of tax evasion and operating a business without a licence.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Pioneer of Moroccan Press Freedom Shut Down

A Moroccan magazine known for its fierce criticism of the country’s powerful monarchy failed to reach news stands on Saturday after a court sealed its offices for failing to honor its financial commitments.

Le Journal Hebdomadaire’s holding companies owe over 5 million dirhams ($622,700) in social security contributions, taxes and bank loans, editorial writer Aboubakr Jamai said.

“It’s true we’re unable to keep our financial commitments, but why? We have come under economic attack — it’s a clear case of financial asphyxiation,” Jamai told Reuters.

He said the authorities had spent years discouraging companies from advertising in Le Journal.

A plan for a wealthy Moroccan businessman to buy the magazine then fell through at the last minute, he said.

“We are being judged for our criticism of the monarchy,” said Jamai. “We point the finger at officials and name them and we follow that up with investigation and we take a position. We were the first to do that.”

Government officials could not be reached for comment.

The government has said a series of legal actions and fines against Morocco’s press in recent years have nothing to do with freedom of expression but are simply a natural response to bad, poorly-sourced journalism and slander.

“This judicial liquidation heralds the end of the first independent title in Morocco,” press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Russia Announces Libya Arms Deal Worth $1.8bn

Russia is to supply Libya with small-arms and other weapons to the value of $1.8bn (£1.1bn, 1.3bn euros), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced.

The contract is worth nearly a quarter of the Russian state arms exporter’s entire sales last year, which were put at $7.4bn.

Mr Putin said the deal had been signed on Friday during a visit by the Libyan defence minister.

There was no immediate word from the Libyan side on the deal.

Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber, Libya’s defence minister, has been in Moscow for several days, meeting defence officials.

Keeping busy

Mr Putin gave no details of the arms covered by the contract. Russian media speculated earlier that it might include fighter planes.

“Yesterday a contract worth 1.3bn euros was signed,” Mr Putin announced at a meeting near Moscow with the director of the Russian small-arms manufacturer Izhmash, which makes the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

“These are not just small-arms.”

Mr Putin gave no further details. However, according to a military diplomatic source quoted earlier by Russian news agencies, the deal included fighter aircraft, tanks and a sophisticated air defence system.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms export monopoly, announced on Thursday that its 2009 sales had seen a 10% increase on the previous year.

Customers included India, Algeria, China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Syria, with air force weaponry making up 50% of sales.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Berlusconi Doubts Wisdom of Gaza Pullout

(IsraelNN.com) Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hinted in an interview published Sunday that the Gaza pullout (“Disengagement”) was a mistake, noting that it ended in “burned synagogues” and missiles being fired into Israel.

Berlusconi arrives in Israel Monday for a three-day visit. He will be accompanied by eight Italian cabinet ministers, who will for the first time participate in a joint cabinet meeting with the Israeli cabinet.

The meeting will also highlight bilateral cooperation in the fields of science, technology and culture. A special conference will be held bringing together leaders of Italian business, industry and science and their Israeli counterparts. Three laboratories that were funded by the Italians will be dedicated in the course of the visit.

Speaking to Haaretz regarding the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Berlusconi criticized Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria: “Israel’s settlement policy could be an obstacle to peace. I would like to say to the people and government of Israel, as a friend, with my hand on my heart, that persisting with this policy is a mistake. I welcomed Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu’s courage in his announcement of a 10-month [Jewish residential settlement construction] freeze. It will never be possible to convince the Palestinians of Israel’s good intentions while Israel continues to build in territories that are to be returned as part of a peace agreement.”

Berlusconi added, however, that “at the same time, what happened in Gaza should prompt some thought. It is not [acceptable for Israel] to evacuate communities [and then have to] face burned synagogues, acts of destruction, and inter-Palestinian violence and missiles being shot into Israeli territory.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Elections Only if in Both West Bank and Gaza, Abbas

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 8 — Palestinian National Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), said that there will be no parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank if Hamas does not accept holding a vote also in the Gaza Strip, a territory that they have controlled since 2007. This was reported by the press in Beirut, according to which, at the end of his official two-day visit to Lebanon, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), said: “if Hamas continues to refuse calling elections in Gaza, I will not allow them to be held in the West Bank.” Due to Hamas’ refusal, the electoral commission advised postponing elections in the Palestinian Territories, initially set for January 24. Abbas, whose mandate as PNA President has already expired, underlined that his refusal to rerun “is not a political manoeuvre. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Minister Reassures Settlers, Freeze Fictitious

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 11 — The 10 month freeze on building activity in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, recently decided on by Premier Benyamin Netanyahu in light of pressure from the Obama administration and Washington’s attempts to resume the peace process with the Palestinians, is in reality a fictitious measure. Maintaining the view was Israeli minister Benny Begin, the ‘falcon’ of the Likud party (rightwing, of Netanyahu) close to the settlement movement. “It has nothing to do with an actual freeze, but just with putting some limits on construction”, Begin admitted during a meeting with the public in Tel Aviv, with the evident intention of reassuring the “settlers”, who were on the point of war when the moratorium was announced. Not only. “During these 10 months, another 10,000 residents will be added to the existing 300,000 that already live” in the settlements of the West Bank, the minister, son of the late historic leader of the Israeli right Menachem Begin and who currently belongs to the closed government council that implemented the moratorium, stated. The fictitious nature of the moratorium was affirmed on the opposing front, and with contrary feelings, by the Palestinians as well (who do not consider the measure sufficient to return to peace negotiations) and Israel’s pacifist organisations like ‘Peace Now’. The measure, in effect, as well as being temporary, does not include the settlements in East Jerusalem (which for the Netanyahu government was annexed definitively by Israel), or the thousands of projects for new homes that have been authorised in the West Bank up until just a few weeks ago, as well as the financing and construction of public buildings. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Analysis: Lebanon: Conflict Widens to Syria

by Jonathan Spyer

In the last week, senior Israeli policymakers made statements of an uncharacteristically bellicose nature regarding Syria.

It is unlikely that these statements were made because of sudden random irritation toward Israel’s hostile northeastern neighbor. Rather, the statements probably constituted part of a message of deterrence to Damascus.

The need to project deterrence itself derives from a series of significant changes currently under way on the ground in Lebanon — reflecting Syria’s ever tighter alignment with Hizbullah and the pro-Iranian regional bloc of which it is a part.

These changes take place against the backdrop of awareness that the tactics likely to be adopted by Israel in a future war with Hizbullah carry with them the very real possibility that Syria could, on one level or another, be drawn in.

On Saturday night, Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled said that another conflict on the northern border was a “matter of time.” Peled noted that in the event of such a conflict breaking out, Israel would hold “Syria and Lebanon alike responsible.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, meeting with Michael Williams, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon earlier this week, expressed his concern that Hizbullah fighters have been training on surface-to-surface missile systems in Syria.

Then, on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted in a speech that if Israel was forced to fight Syria, “we won’t fear and we’ll defeat them.” Why the sudden ministerial loquaciousness?

It may with some justification be asserted that to assume any coordination behind the statements of Israeli ministers is to betray a touching naivete. All the same, the near-simultaneous ministerial recollection of the Syrian threat should be considered in conjunction with the following facts…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Diplomatic Scandal in Tehran: Loves Mails From the German Embassy

A protester in Iran: A German federal police officer has been caught in a strange relationship in Tehran.

The news made headlines around the world: “German diplomats arrested in Tehran.” But there were no arrests. SPIEGEL has learned that the true story is one of a German federal police officer who had an affair with an Iranian woman that was uncovered and politicized by the regime.

Last Wednesday, the German government flew two federal police officers employed at the German embassy in Tehran back to Germany for security reasons, SPIEGEL has learned.

The Iranian secret service placed false reports last week about the alleged arrest of two German diplomats in connection with an opposition protest. The reports made international headlines earlier this week. But at the center of the issue is a controversial love affair conducted by a German police officer.

Iranian state news agency Insa released a report that the two officers had been arrested on Dec. 27 and had contacts to the so-called green opposition in Iran and were supporting the protests against the regime. The German Foreign Ministry swiftly denied the report. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle even thought it necessary to publicly respond to the allegations.

In truth, though, the story is a little less scandalous, but still embarrassing for the German government and the Foreign Ministry. There’s no diplomatic scandal behind the news released by the Iranians. Instead, a German police officer had a slightly bizarre affair with an Iranian women that had been uncovered by the Iranian secret service.

A Story Straight out of a Thriller Novel

The officer had never been arrested at a demonstration as had been reported. In fact, Iranian police merely conducted controls in early November of the two federal police officers, who worked in the embassy’s security department.

One of the two, chief police officer Joerg B., had already drawn the attention of the secret service because of his relationship with an Iranian women. Local authorities claim the woman had ties to opposition leader Hossein Mousavi.

The description of the woman by Insa, which described her as an agent, could have come out of a thriller novel. The news agency claimed the diplomats obtained information from the alleged agent “at anytime of day or night.” And it accused her of having recruited a network of youth to help coordinate protests who were deployed during the riots on the Ashura Shiite day of commemoration. The report alleges officials found gold and precious metals on the alleged agent, which they claimed had been pay for her work.

The reality, though, is a bit different. The regime’s agents collected very different information about the Iranian woman. German authorities believe that the Iranian secret service intercepted e-mails from the police officer to the Iranian woman that he sent from his work e-mail account managed by the German Foreign Ministry.

How Private Becomes Public

The incident once again underscores the level of scrutiny and observation the Iranian regime places on the German embassy in Tehran and how little regard it has for diplomatic status.

But the incident is also embarrassing for the Foreign Ministry because it mirrors a similar event that took place just one and a half years ago. Ingo W., a senior police officer at the embassy, had an affair with an Iranian women and had to leave the country in 2008.

The fact that the Iranian government has now gone public with this information and connected it with the Iranian opposition movement clearly appears to be for political reasons. Tehran is deeply upset by the German government’s support for Israel’s calls for tighter sanctions against Iran. German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her support for further sanctions earlier this week during a visit to Berlin by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The two officers sent back this week are expected to be questioned by officials. The Foreign Ministry also plans to further sensitize its workers to the fact that, with a tense situation in Iran, private relationships can quickly take on a political dimension.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



US Raises Stakes on Iran by Sending in Ships and Missiles

Pentagon says Patriot shield will deter strike on American allies in the Gulf

Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran.

The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait — and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations.

American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.

The deployment comes after Obama’s attempts to emphasise diplomacy over confrontation in dealing with Iran — a contrast to the Bush administration’s approach — have failed to persuade Tehran to open its nuclear installations to international controls. The White House is now trying to engineer agreement for sanctions focused on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, believed to be in charge of the atomic programme.

Washington has not formally announced the deployment of the Patriots and other anti-missile systems, but by leaking it to American newspapers the administration is evidently seeking to alert Tehran to a hardening of its position.

The administration is deploying two Patriot batteries, capable of shooting down incoming missiles, in each of the four Gulf countries. Kuwait already has an older version of the missile, deployed after Iraq’s invasion. Saudi Arabia has long had the missiles, as has Israel.

An unnamed senior administration official told the New York Times: “Our first goal is to deter the Iranians. A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.”

The chief of the US central command, General David Petraeus, said in a speech 10 days ago that countries in the region are concerned about Tehran’s military ambitions and the prospect of it becoming a dominant power in the Gulf: “Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the Gulf front.”

Petraeus said the US is keeping cruisers equipped with advanced anti-missile systems in the Gulf at all times to act as a buffer between Iran and the Gulf states.

Washington is also concerned at the threat of action by Israel, which is predicting that Iran will be able to build a nuclear missile within a year, a much faster timetable than assessed by the US, and is warning that it will not let Tehran come close to completion if diplomacy fails.

The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, met the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and other senior officials in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iran.

[Return to headlines]

Russia


Russia: The Supreme Court Confirms: Jehovah’s Witnesses Outlawed in Rostov

Upheld a ruling passed in September by the provincial court of the city on the Black Sea. Communities in the cities of Taganrog, Neklinov Matveeva and Kurgan-can no longer carry out activities and must withdraw. 34 publications banned for “extremist content” and property confiscated. Jehovah’s Witnesses are turning to the European Court.

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveeva -Kurgan are outlawed, they can not carry out any activities and must be withdrawn. So says a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation confirming the sentence issued by the Provincial Court of Rostov (see AsiaNews, 17/09/2009, “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists “).

In September, the religious organization was accused of spreading “extremist material” promoting a lifestyle that is sectarian and hostile to the peaceful coexistence in the Federation. The Public Ministry of the Federal Court confirmed the indictment by banning 34 of the 68 publications distributed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region. According to the charges they “contain outrageous expressions” and “virtually all the literature [distributed by the organisation] is crossed by a common thread that says that traditional Christianity is a false religion.”

The organization is also accused of the “violation of the rights of non-believers” through “attempts to enter their homes to pray and perform intrusive activities of evangelization.” They have also been banned from distributing magazines and pamphlets and have had property confiscated, such as offices and facilities of the organization, which will pass under the ownership of the Federation.

Vasily Kalin, director of the Audit Committee of the organization’s administrative Centre in Russia, fears now that “the decision will open a new era of persecution for the Jehovah’s Witnesses” and that trials similar to those of Rostov will take place in other county courts ( See AsiaNews, 5/10/2009, “Altai court also condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism” “). The representative of Organisation in the Federation said: “The right to peaceful assembly, to possession of Christian literature and sharing the hope of the Gospel with others, has suffered a severe restriction.”

For Arly Chimirov, one of the lawyers who followed the Jehovah’s Witnesses case, “the Supreme Court’s decision confirms the illegal application of the legislation on extremism”. The lawyer has announced an “appeal to the European Court” according to defensive lines followed since the beginning in the court in Rostov. The organization says it argued that the publications are the same distributed in hundreds of countries around the world, including European Union countries, where there are communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Pakistan Taliban Chief Reportedly Killed in U.S. Drone Strike

The head of the Taliban in Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a U.S. drone attack, Pakistan state television reported Sunday.

The report stated Mehsud had been injured in a drone attack in the Shaktoi area January 14 and died three days later. He reportedly was buried in the village of Mamuzai in the North Waziristan region.

The Pakistani army said Sunday that it was investigating the reports.

The militant leader’s death would be an important success for both Pakistan, which has been battling the Pakistani Taliban, and the U.S., which blames Mehsud for a recent deadly bombing against the CIA in Afghanistan.

The army’s announcement came shortly after Pakistani state television, citing unnamed “official sources,” reported that Mehsud died in Orakzai, an area in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region where he was reportedly being treated for his injuries.

“We have these reports coming to us,” army spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press. “We are investigating whether it is true or wrong.”

A tribal elder told the AP that he attended Mehsud’s funeral in the Mamuzai area of Orakzai on Thursday. He said Mehsud was buried in Mamuzai graveyard after he died at his in-laws’ home. The elder spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the Taliban.

Pakistani intelligence officials have said that Mehsud was targeted in a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan on Jan. 14, triggering rumors that he had been injured or killed. The strike targeted a meeting of militant commanders in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan.

Mehsud issued two audio tapes after the strike denying the rumors. But Pakistani intelligence officials told the AP on Sunday that they have confirmation that the Taliban chief’s legs and abdomen were wounded in the strike.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Pakistani Taliban officials were not immediately available for comment, but low-level fighters have dismissed rumors of Mehsud’s death in recent days as propaganda.

The drone strike that targeted Mehsud came about two weeks after a deadly suicide bombing he helped orchestrate killed seven CIA employees at a remote base across the border in Afghanistan. Mehsud appeared in a video issued after the bombing sitting beside the Jordanian man who carried out the attack.

The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, said he carried out the attack in retribution for the death of former Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud — Hakimullah Mehsud’s predecessor — in a U.S. drone strike last August.

The U.S. refuses to talk about the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan but officials have said privately that the strikes have killed several senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders.

Pakistani officials publicly protest the strikes as violations of the country’s sovereignty, but U.S. officials say privately they support the program, especially when it targets militants like Mehsud who the government believes is a threat to the state.

Mehsud, who has the reputation as a particularly ruthless militant, took over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban soon after Baitullah Mehsud’s death.

The 28 year-old militant leader has focused most of his attacks against targets inside Pakistan, but his men have also been blamed for attacking U.S. and NATO supply convoys traveling through the country en route to Afghanistan.

Hakimullah Mehsud first appeared in public to journalists in November 2008, when he offered to take reporters in Orakzai on a ride in a U.S. Humvee taken from a supply truck headed to Afghanistan. He was the Pakistani Taliban’s regional commander in the Orakzai, Khyber and Mohmand tribal areas before taking over the organization.

He has taken responsibility for a wave of brazen strikes inside Pakistan, including the bombing of the Pearl Continental hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar last June and the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore earlier that year.

The group stepped up its attacks after the Pakistani army invaded its stronghold of South Waziristan in mid-October. More than 600 people have been killed in attacks throughout the country since the ground offensive was launched.

Authorities have said Mehsud has been behind threats to foreign embassies in Islamabad, and there is a $120,000 bounty on his head.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Role of the OIC in Afghanistan Gets Emphasized at the International Afghanistan Conference in London

The Final Communiqué of the International Conference on Afghanistan held in London on 28 January 2010, while heralding a new era in approaching the problems faced by Afghanistan, referred to the important role of the OIC within the regional engagement and in developing projects to promote education and tackling radicalization.

The intervention of the OIC General Secretariat at the Conference stated that the Organization, as the second largest intergovernmental organization in membership after the United Nations, with 57 member and 5 observer countries, and being the voice of 1.5 billion Muslims in the world affairs, was capable of providing “the cultural” framework that both President Abdullah Gul and President Hamid Karzai had mentioned at the Regional Conference on Afghanistan held in Istanbul on 26 January. The OIC’s intervention at the London Conference also supported the national reconciliation process elaborated by President Karzai. It underlined the OIC’s readiness to play an instrumental role in this regard, using its vast experiences and potentials to work with concerned stakeholders.

The OIC statement at the London Conference further elaborated that the OIC General Secretariat has planned to co-organize together with the Afghan Government an important conference of scholars and religious leaders in Kabul on restoring security and stability in Afghanistan and in the region with a view to addressing the issue of radical interpretation of the teachings of religion and to promote moderation and peaceful coexistence among the adherents of different schools of thought.

The statement of the OIC delegation concluded that the aim of the Organization was to contribute to the national reconciliation among all elements of the Afghan society through utilizing the comparative advantages of the OIC.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Far East


Kazakhs Protest Against China Farmland Lease

Several hundred people have gathered in the Kazakh city of Almaty to protest against what they call “Chinese expansionism”.

The protest follows the announcement by the country’s leadership of a proposal to lease farmland to China.

Kazakhstan shares part of its eastern border with China.

And despite being one of the largest countries in the world it has a population of just 16 million. China is one of its leading investors.

Holding banners that read “Kazakh land is not for sale”, between 500 and 1,000 people gathered in one of Almaty’s parks.

Addressing the crowd from a platform under a giant statue of Lenin, a group of opposition leaders urged the government to reconsider.

The action follows remarks made by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in December that China was interested in renting a million hectares of farmland from Kazakhstan.

But the announcement has sparked controversy. Protesters say they feel threatened by their eastern neighbour.

“Our people are awakening, our land is under threat,” said one.

“I think there should be more people here. People do not fully understand what is around the corner.”

Public demonstrations are usually banned in Kazakhstan.

Despite this meeting being sanctioned by the authorities there was a heavy police presence.

The general prosecutor’s office has warned that those exploiting the issue of farmland to incite ethnic tension could be charged.

China is a leading investor in oil-rich Kazakhstan. Last year it lent $10bn in credits in exchange for stakes in one of Kazakhstan’s largest oil companies.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Immigration


A Modern Tale of Meatpacking and Immigrants

Grand Island, Neb., has long been a revolving door of immigrants, from Vietnamese and Bosnians to Latinos and Sudanese. But with Somali Muslims came a whole new set of conflicts.

The new immigrants, who had been granted refugee status because of strife in their homelands, posed new challenges to the status quo in Grand Island.

They were black, and some were Muslim.

A new kind of different

During each shift, at sundown, Farah asks her supervisor if she can put down her knives and go to the bathroom. Sometimes, if there are enough other trimmers to cover for her, the boss says yes.

Farah stands at the sink in the company locker room, away from the drone of the factory floor. She washes her hands, her face, her arms and her feet, turns northeast to face Mecca and begins to pray.

When the Somalis began arriving in 2007, supervisors learned that some of the more devout workers prayed five times a day, and that the sundown prayer fell before the plant’s regularly scheduled 15-minute break. For the most part, they looked the other way.

That changed in 2008, during Ramadan, when virtually all the Muslim workers began leaving the assembly line en masse to pray. Even Muslims who are not particularly religious often make an effort to pray during the holy month.

Co-workers complained that they had to pick up the slack. Management told the Somalis they couldn’t pray because the plant, one of the largest in the country, couldn’t afford to stop the machines. Five hundred Muslim workers, infuriated, walked off the job.

Most came back after Swift & Co. agreed to accommodate them by changing break times.

But other workers protested that the Muslims had gotten preferential treatment, an idea fueled by a story published in a local Spanish-language newspaper that falsely claimed the Somalis had gotten a pay raise. Fights broke out in the lunch room. Hundreds of Latinos — joined by the Sudanese, who are mostly Christian — walked off the job.

Major conflict at the plant let up when Ramadan ended. But tensions in town mounted like never before.

At the Autumn Woods apartments on the southeast side of town, police were called several times a day to respond to stabbings, shootings and disputes.

A war was building between the Somalis, who lived on one side of the complex, and the Sudanese, who lived on the other side.

“It’s chaotic anarchy,” Police Chief Steve Lamken said recently.

In late August 2009, a Sudanese man was shot in the head at the apartment complex. Police arrested three Somalis in connection with the killing.Officer Robert Winton blamed the fighting on the Africans’ violent homelands. “They’re at war in their countries and they bring it here,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Italy: Asian Unionist’s Death Sparks Political Row

Rome, 10 Dec. (AKI) — The death of a homeless Pakistani who founded Italy’s first trade union for migrant workers has provoked a bitter reaction. Mouhammad Muzzaffar Ali, whose nickname was ‘Shere Khan’ or ‘The Tiger’ was found dead on a street near Rome’s central railway station early on Wednesday.

“This is a scandal for the capital of a democratic country,” said Giulia Rodano, the councillor responsible for culture in Rome’s surrounding Lazio region.

An autospy was due to be carried out on 55-year-old Ali to establish the precise cause of his death. But his body reportedly showed no apparent signs of physical violence.

Ali, of no fixed abode, had been sleeping rough for several days after leaving Rome’s Ponte Galleria immigrant holding centre. There was no indication of whether he had family members in Italy.

Rome’s city councillor for social policy, Sveva Belviso, urged the homeless to seek accommodation in shelters.

“Our winter anti-cold campaign has been in place since 1 December and the city council can house around 600 people in 11 shelters across the city,” Belviso stated.

During the early 1990s Ali led the occupation by homeless immigrants and Italians of the former Pantanella pasta factory in Rome.

In the late 1980s he founded the United Asian Workers Association (UAWA) which was the first union to fight for immigrant workers’ rights to work, housing and political asylum.

“Shere Khan was a political refugee. After he and his workers were evicted from the factory in via Salaria, he suffered real persecution by the authorities,” said Alessandra Caligiuri from the Dhummcatu Asian immigrants’ association.

“As he was single, the city council didn’t even find him a bed. He is the umpteenth victim of the failure of Italian policies to welcome immigrants,” Caligiuri said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Lewiston, ME to be Used as Assimilation Model for Other Cities

You have got to be laughing if you have been a regular reader of Refugee Resettlement Watch. The Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence* in Portland, ME is taking its wonderful example of how Somalis have come to live and be accepted in Lewiston to four other cities in the US.

Yes, Lewiston! where thousands of Somalis looking for the best welfare state in the Nation arrived in the city a few years ago. Lewiston! where we only last month heard about roving gangs of Somali youths tormenting people on the streets. Lewiston! where a Somali woman just a few weeks ago became impatient in a line of vehicles dropping kids off at Lewiston High School and ran over a young student with her Mercedes. Lewiston! where Somalis were arrested by the feds for allegedly running a home health care fraud! And, here is another case of a conviction for welfare fraud there. Lewiston! where last spring Newsweek did a puff piece article and the town fathers had to come back and say it was not accurate. That same Lewiston is going to be the model for four troubled cities!

Here is the story from the Sun Journal yesterday…

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Controversial Deportation Decision Postponed

Parliament has delayed taking a decision on a rightwing proposal to automatically deport foreigners convicted of serious crimes.

Instead, the Senate has voted to seek further clarifications at committee level to examine whether the initiative is compatible with international law and the constitution.

Thursday’s debate took place against the backdrop of Swiss voters’ controversial approval on November 29 of a rightwing initiative to ban the construction of minarets.

The surprise acceptance of the minaret ban put Switzerland in the global spotlight.

It also prompted calls for the government to annul people’s initiatives that are incompatible with the fundamental principles of international law or cannot be implemented because they go against the Swiss constitution.

Proponents of the deportation initiative criticized the Senate’s decision, saying it feared another defeat at the ballot box.

The 90-minute debate in the Senate on the deportation plan was closely watched by more than a dozen members of the House of Representatives. The initiative will not be tackled by the House until next year.

Representatives of the rightwing People’s Party, which backs the proposal, argued there was no need for legal clarification at committee level.

“A lot of spurious reasons were voiced to seek to put off a nationwide vote,” said Christoffel Brändli.

Maximilian Reimann said parliament was trying to deprive the People’s Party of a highly promising campaign instrument ahead of the 2011 general elections.

According to This Jenny, the government and parliament are attempting to ignore people’s concerns. “It is fear of another defeat at the ballot box and of the success of one particular party,” he said.

Counter proposal

“We are not trying to delay the procedure,” countered committee speaker Hansheiri Inderkum who pledged to table the issue for the Senate’s spring session.

Centre-right Senators including Rolf Büttiker of the Radical Party called for an alternative proposal to be put to voters alongside the initiative while Christian Democrat Urs Schwaller warned of difficulties to implement an initiative which is not in line with fundamental legal principles.

Social Democrat Simonetta Sommaruga urged parliament to be more consistent in applying Switzerland’s international obligations. She referred to a decision in 1996 to annul an initiative by a rightwing group to tighten measures against asylum seekers.

Invalid

Legal experts differ over whether the latest proposal by the People’s Party to crack down on foreign criminals violates international law and human rights, or whether it is merely borderline — similar to the anti-minaret proposal.

The Swiss branch of the Amnesty International called for the initiative to be annulled. “It is possible under present law to expel criminal foreigners if they are a threat to the public,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The people’s initiative was a key campaign instrument for the People’s Party in the run-up to the last parliamentary elections. The party successfully used a controversial poster showing white sheep kicking out a black sheep.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Spanish Bishops: Anyone Who Votes for Abortion Law Lives in Sin

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 27 — Catholic deputies that support or vote in favour of the reform to the law on abortion will not be excommunicated, but they will find themselves in an objective situation of sin because they are acting in a public manner that contradicts the moral doctrine of the Church. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, a spokesman from the Episcopal Conference has repeated today in a meeting with journalists at the end of the autumn CEE conference and the day after the approval, in Congress, of the start of the parliamentary iter of the reform of the law on abortion. The objective situation of sin means that the person can no longer be admitted to Communion, until he or she admits his or her mistake and publicly asks for pardon, explained Martinez Camino. Excommunication, threatened by the Spanish ecclesiastical hierarchy on November 10, instead means the interdiction to all sacraments. The position of the Church is unequivocal and immoveable throughout time, he added. No-one who observes the imperatives of the correct reason can approve or give their vote in favour of this law. He pointed out that people who vote for a law like this one or run campaigns in its favour will not be excommunicated. But they are in an objective situation of sin. Objective because the Church does not judge their conscience. Their guilt is subjective, personal, and the Church does not judge it, he observed. They do however act in a public manner contrary to the fundamental moral doctrine of the Church, he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General


Amazongate: New Evidence of the IPCC’s Failures

The IPCC is beginning to melt as global tempers rise, says Christopher Booker

A Canadian analyst has identified more than 20 passages in the IPCC’s report which cite similarly non-peer-reviewed WWF or Greenpeace reports as their authority, and other researchers have been uncovering a host of similarly dubious claims and attributions all through the report. These range from groundless allegations about the increased frequency of “extreme weather events” such as hurricanes, droughts and heatwaves, to a headline claim that global warming would put billions of people at the mercy of water shortages — when the study cited as its authority indicated exactly the opposite, that rising temperatures could increase the supply of water.

Dr North next uncovered “Amazongate”. The IPCC made a prominent claim in its 2007 report, again citing the WWF as its authority, that climate change could endanger “up to 40 per cent” of the Amazon rainforest — as iconic to warmists as those Himalayan glaciers and polar bears. This WWF report, it turned out, was co-authored by Andy Rowell, an anti-smoking and food safety campaigner who has worked for WWF and Greenpeace, and contributed pieces to Britain’s two most committed environmentalist newspapers. Rowell and his co-author claimed their findings were based on an article in Nature. But the focus of that piece, it emerges, was not global warming at all but the effects of logging.

[…]

Little of this has come as a surprise to those who have studied the workings of the IPCC over the years. As I show in my book The Real Global Warming Disaster, there is no greater misconception about the IPCC than that it was intended to be an impartial body, weighing scientific evidence for and against global warming. It was set up in 1988 by a small group of scientists all firmly committed to the theory of “human-induced climate change”, and its chief purpose ever since has been to promote that belief.

The blatant bias of each of its four reports has been pointed out by scientists — notably the rewriting of key passages in its 1995 report after the contributing scientists had approved the final text. This provoked a magisterial blast from Professor Frederick Seitz, a former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, who wrote that in all his 60 years as a scientist he had never seen “a more disturbing corruption” of the scientific process, and that if the IPCC was “incapable of following its most basic procedures”, it was best it should be “abandoned”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UN Climate Change Panel Based Claims on Student Dissertation and Magazine Article

The United Nations’ expert panel on climate change based claims about ice disappearing from the world’s mountain tops on a student’s dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.

In [IPCCs] most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Polish Blondes Are the Victims

Cultural Enrichment News


Many thanks to JLH for translating this brief piece from Europe News about the ordeal that Polish girls have to go through in certain culturally enriched German schools:

Berlin: Girls With Hijab Go Off On Polish Blondes

Polskaweb January 23, 2010

In Neukoelln, the head covering debate is getting a “Berlin-brutal” dimension in a new culture war. Girls with head coverings are suddenly going after other schoolgirls, preferably blondes. School administrators and school committee members are very concerned.

It happened on the way home from school. “Two times already girls with hijabs hit bare-headed girls with their fists, knocked them down and kicked them,” says Volker Steffens, principal of the Thomas Morus secondary school in Neukoelln.

- – - - – - – - -

The proportion of foreigners in the approximately 500 students is more than 80%, representing 41 countries. The rector says: “Once one of the headscarf girls tried to set a blond girl’s hair on fire. Most of the victims are Polish girls.”

Rita Hermanns of the school committee: “Fundamentalist tendencies are increasing in Berlin schools too. More and more girls wear headscarves. More and more Muslim parents forbid their daughters to participate in class trips, swimming classes and sex education.” Principal Volker Steffens is on the front lines and feels the consequences. “Islamist tendencies and direct, racist attacks by girls are conspicuous.”

Polish blondes are the victims because they are Catholic and nevertheless liberal and therefore embody everything the headscarf girls reject. The basis of the conflict is often envy. Steffens: “In strongly religious homes, much is forbidden. In school, the girls see other girls who are allowed more. They become envious and hit the girls from liberal families…”



For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.

From Such Tiny Acorns

This excellent comment by Hard Rain was posted at the International Free Press Society on the thread accompanying the video of Geert Wilders’ opening comments at his trial last week:

The most troubling aspect of this case is that Geert Wilders is being prosecuted not by Muslims in a Muslim state, but by our own increasingly submissive Infidel legal system.

That European courts are now allowing themselves to be utilised as weapons in the religious war being prosecuted against us is sharply and depressingly underlined by the faces of the judges in the courtroom, which look every inch the epitome of staunch Dutch respectability.

The real problem isn’t about opposing Islam in debate with the Muslims themselves. There’s little chance that we could ever sway more than a very few. The real challenge is in presenting our case, clearly and convincingly, to our own people, while effectively averting the inevitable negative accusations that are levelled at us along the way. Just look at Geert Wilders and Mark Steyn.

It is a salutary experience to realise how few of us there are speaking out about the global jihad threat. Even though to we few this threat is a transparently obvious, self-evident truth, we are nonetheless, little more than the sound of a voice crying in the wilderness.

The fact that there are so few of us, and that our opinions are considered so very controversial, places us firmly outside the flow of mainstream opinion in the West. Ironic then, that we are so often characterised as hawkish right-wing reactionaries or absurd Canute-like traditionalists attempting to hold back the historic tide of human growth from our thrones on the beach.

- – - - – - – - -

This attempt to dismiss us as retrograde defenders of the status quo is very far from the truth. The perceived wisdom of today is, after all, based firmly upon staunch political correctness and irreversible multi-culturalism. Not our kind of status quo at all. In fact it is precisely the current status quo that stands in the way of any widespread public comprehension of the real threats our nations face.

That we are so very few in number and that our message is perceived to be so controversial, and so widely condemned by our governments and our media, and as a consequence, by the man in the street, means that we are an entirely different animal from our media portrayal.

We no longer represent the view of The Establishment, or of any establishment view currently displayed by any government on Earth. We are, indeed outsiders, but as such find ourselves liberated from any accusation that we represent the forces of reaction. The truth is that we as a group have become the dissenters. Ours is the voice of the agitator and the subversive.

In a very real sense we have become revolutionaries.

The mildest description we could give of ourselves might be pro-democracy activists. Yet the very fact that we might need to describe ourselves as such in our own democratic countries, and that by merely doing so we attract criticism from other democratic Westerners, is in itself a damning indictment, not so much of any evil state of play within our societies, but of how far into retreat we have allowed ourselves to be driven.

Of course, there is another way to describe a small group of people who, though widely criticised and viciously attacked, persevere in the face of all odds to profess their crucial yet unwelcome message to the world. And that word is vanguard.

In years to come the world will look back on the Geerts and Roberts, the Pamelas, Hughs and Marisols, and yes, many of the folk who post their thoughts in these threads, and see them for the visionaries they really were, way back in the early 21st Century. So maybe that’s how we should view ourselves and our fellow antijihadis: dissenters, subversives and revolutionaries, yes, reviled by many, yes; but also the vanguard of a new awareness that could, if we only persevere, grow and offer at least some hope for our humanity and the values of civilisation.

John the Baptist was in his time, a starving, ragged voice crying in the wilderness, yet he was the vanguard of a religious movement that swept the world and transformed empires. And it is from such tiny acorns that mighty oaks grow.



Hat tip: Vlad Tepes.

Withdrawing from Factual Discourse

JLH had translated another interview with the Turkish-German sociologist Necla Kelek. The translator includes this brief introduction:

The recent interview with the sociologist Necla Kelek showed a little bit about how she approaches Islam. The interview below is more self-conscious, giving us — among other things — some idea of what she thinks about the more strident bleeding hearts. The reporter quotes one phrase that the PCers like to aim at Kelek: “fundamentalist of the Enlightenment.” It betrays their frustration that their posturing, name-calling and shouting are simply answered with deadly logic.

And the translated interview from Die Welt:

“Muslims are not self-critical”
by Andrea Seibel

January 27, 2010

Necla KelekTurkish-born German sociologist and author Necla Kelek on criticism of Islam, on Muslim officials, and on overcoming sharia.

A debate has broken out in the German media about the limits of criticism of Islam. In the course of the debate, an “Islamophobia” is asserted, which many consider to be just as fundamentalist as Islamic fundamentalism itself. Henryk M. Broder (January 13), Hamed Abdel-Samad (January 19) and Thierry Chervel (January 23) have all written here on that subject. One of the Islam-critics attacked is sociologist Necla Kelek. She defends her position in a conversation with Andrea Seibel.

Welt:   You are considered an Islam Critic. What is that, exactly?
Kelek:   Those who call me that can certainly answer that better, and they do not mean it positively. I have studied sociology and economics, earned my degree in “Islam in Everyday Life,” and am working on the social dimensions of this religion. I am a Muslim who is grappling critically with my religion and wants to open Islam up to civil society.
Welt:   How did you arrive at this theme for your life?
Kelek:   When I first began my studies, I was happy to have escaped the Turkish-Islamic community, and concerned myself exclusively with Western philosophy and methodology. But as an immigrant, you can’t escape your socialization. I studied the situation of Turkish women in a foreign country. Sometimes it seems to me as if this subject chose me. At some point, I could no longer look the other way. What goes on in the Turkish community is very different from the concentration of prevalent immigration studies.
Welt:   Why does criticism repeatedly rage around you and other Islam critics?

- – - - – - – - -

Kelek:   It is not about me, but about reality. It is because so few other Muslims look at things critically. I have been living with criticism since the publication of “The Foreign Bride,” and it will start up again in a few weeks when my new book on Islam appears. At first I was interesting for some journalists, because I had broken a taboo by discussing “coercion to marry.” However, perhaps because I am not satisfied with the role of instigator, but am trying to illuminate structures and backgrounds, I am becoming burdensome for some of them. I interpret and insist on a change in thinking. Many of those who study and do research on immigration are strongly disturbed by me. For decades, it was clear who played what role: the Muslim immigrants were the wards who had to be saved by social work.
Welt:   In German editorial pages now, you are called a “preacher of hate.” You are equated with the radical Islamists.
Kelek:   Sometimes an editor cannot do anything about a hasty headline. I understand that. However, this shows me that a number of intellectuals in this country are deeply insecure. Instead of taking a close look at who is arguing and how they are doing it, they swing the verbal mallet. My opponents seem to be dealing with the ancient German guilt complex. Anyone who seriously maintains that interceding for human rights is just as fundamentalist as the call to holy war is withdrawing from factual discourse.
Welt:   Critics call you a “fundamentalist of the Enlightenment,” because you are not tolerant of others.
Kelek:   The biggest problem is that Western individualists cannot comprehend what Islam is. They think it is just a variant of their own faith, but with a hijab. However, Islam is a system that sees the person as part of a social system and not as an individual. It emphasizes the collective. The Christian world was not de-Christianized by the Enlightenment and Muslims will not become worse Muslims by dropping sharia. They must become secularized. They must lay aside the political and ideological character of Islam and reflect on (its) spirituality.
Welt:   Do you believe that there is any limit to the criticism of Islam, for the sake of inner peace?
Kelek:   By “inner peace,” do you mean — we should let the pashas pray in peace? Read my books, my articles, my interviews. Before I criticize, I observe, and I try not to injure anyone, nor do I question his belief. I analyze structures and connections. This culture of being insulted shows the inability of Muslims to deal with reality and accept constructive criticism.
Welt:   Well then, what is Islamophobia?
Kelek:   The concept is supposed to express the idea that criticism of Islam is irrational and therefore baseless. It was introduced by the Islamic foundations in Saudi Arabia and is now making the rounds here. In the debates, one detects a masculine resentment of those women who criticize certain excesses of Islam: Seyran Ates, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also Irshad Manji. But do not underestimate the resentment of women against other women. The most illogical slanders come mostly from women, with and without an immigrant background.
Welt:   Would you call yourself a feminist?
Kelek:   Without the women’s movement and personalities like Hildegard of Bingen or Alice Schwarzer, I could not stand up publicly for the rights of Muslim women. They were and are my models, and the Islamic world also needs women like that.
Welt:   Is the women’s question the central question when it comes to developing and freeing societies?
Kelek:   Definitely. The unveiling of the woman, that is, personal and social equality, would completely transform Islam. That would be the true revolution. Without women’s equality, Islam will remain an apartheid system.
Welt:   People who make sweeping criticisms of Islam often forfeit a happy life. Think of Rushdie, van Gogh, Westergaard, Hirsi Ali.
Kelek:   Since criticism was banished from Islamic thought almost a thousand years ago; the society hinders its own progress and punishes dissidents as traitors. Doubt as a motivator of insight has been lost to Islamic thinking. It is noteworthy that all critical Islamic thinkers live in the West.
Welt:   Have you been threatened?
Kelek:   No.
Welt:   Do you feel alone — sometimes even standing at a forsaken post? Seyran Ates, who was writing a book on the necessity of a sexual revolution, is presently silent.
Kelek:   It might seem as if Seyran Ates, Hamed Abdel-Samad and I were unique when it comes to criticism of Islam, but we are the tip of the iceberg. I have many German and Turkish friends and acquaintances. I say what many of them unfortunately only dare to think. The debate shows how impoverished in content and argumentation political Islam in Germany is: it cannot produce one person who will convincingly represent the Islamic societies to the outside world. It also shows that people like me, who have neither institutional power nor a universal network, are able to initiate a debate with only facts and arguments. That is what distinguishes our civil society.
Welt:   How is sympathy for you expressed?
Kelek:   I have a circle of multicultural friends and acquaintances who discuss and argue energetically. Agreement comes to me in e-mails; I am invited to meetings. I study, read, discuss and give talks. At first, it was mostly interested German audiences. Now many Muslims and immigrants come. They want to discuss, argue, be heard. Even if someone wants to work on me, I have the feeling that much has changed in the course of recent years. The silence is broken. Many Turkish women tell me: “If we didn’t have you…” That gives me hope.
Welt:   How do you perceive everyday life between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany?
Kelek:   The parallel society is functioning. There, almost exclusively newspapers from home are read; the Turkish TV program is tuned in. The debate which is now going on in editorial pages reaches only a very small number of Muslims. Debating is not allowed in the mosques. Islamic functionaries are not interested in that. They wall themselves off, want to be left in peace. They only emerge when they think they have a claim to make.
Welt:   How can we change the atmosphere? How can we criticize and still be constructive?
Kelek:   Articles like “Preacher of Hate” in the “Süddeutschen” (newspaper) are destructive, because they are trying to question the legitimacy of critiquing religion. The Islamists and Islamic functionaries are holding their hands up in innocence. I am for openness and impute base motives to no one, so we can see even an attack like this in a positive light, because it offers the chance to shed some light on how we intend to live together. Muslims must themselves take the step into an open society. They must create a forum for their problems, worries and suggestions through self-criticism, not as “victims.” That is the only way to establish trust. Unfortunately, we can only hope that this will happen.
Welt:   Islam conferences, certified immigration TV, disputes among mosques, are supposed to have a positive effect, Have they?
Kelek:   A society must be clear about how it will deal with foreign religions and different social models. For that, it is necessary to have an understanding about rules, also sometimes about limits. The Islam conference began hopefully, but since the government apparently sees no solution to problems, it is settling for the lowest common denominator. In the coming months, we will have to deal with a cover-up in things relating to Islam.
Welt:   How do you visualize an open society with a Muslim minority? Is there a moderate, friendly Euro-Islam and we just don’t see it because we are focused on the downside?
Kelek:   Organized political Islam in Germany and Europe is predominantly conservative to reactionary. Turkish Sunnis are the majority. There is the large group of Alevites, who have completely different religious rituals [because they are Shi’ite — translator] and are excluded from the other groups. Only 10 or 15% of citizens counted as Muslims are organized. Most Muslims live Islam as a culture — some according to archaic tradition, others secularly, and want nothing to do with political Islam. These people are mostly moderate. They have no voice, no representation. No, there is no Euro-Islam as Bassam Tibi envisioned it.
Welt:   Are there societies that are broader and fairer than we Europeans have?
Kelek:   Our make-up as a social and democratic nation of laws is a great good fortune.
Welt:   What do you wish for Germany and yourself?
Kelek:   More sun.

Anatomy of a Post with the Naming of Parts

The future Baron sent a link to the post below the fold. This is the most impressive piece of writing I’ve seen in a long while: sly, written ironically but with such a light hand that the reader can only admire his dexterity.

For those whose native tongue is not English, let me explain this a little before you read what I’ve snipped or go over to see all of it.

  • The title is a template.
  • The whole post is a template.
  • Each sentence is a template in itself. It carefully explains what the sentence would contain if it were a ‘real’ post.
  • The comments which follow the post keep a straight face and supply “templated” comments.

It may take a moment to ‘get’ the author’s intention. If it’s not clear immediately, read it again.

I found myself thinking, “Why couldn’t I have written that?” A small voice replied “Because you’re not that clever, my dear”.

Ah, well…may you enjoy this tour de force as much as I did:
- – - - – - – - -

This is the title of a typical incendiary blog post

This sentence contains a provocative statement that attracts the readers’ attention, but really only has very little to do with the topic of the blog post. This sentence claims to follow logically from the first sentence, though the connection is actually rather tenuous. This sentence claims that very few people are willing to admit the obvious inference of the last two sentences, with an implication that the reader is not one of those very few people. This sentence expresses the unwillingness of the writer to be silenced despite going against the popular wisdom. This sentence is a sort of drum roll, preparing the reader for the shocking truth to be contained in the next sentence.

This sentence contains the thesis of the blog post, a trite and obvious statement cast as a dazzling and controversial insight.

This sentence claims that there are many people who do not agree with the thesis of the blog post as expressed in the previous sentence. This sentence speculates as to the mental and ethical character of the people mentioned in the previous sentence…

[…]

Here’s the original post, in full. Be sure to read at least the first page of comments since his readers have created a perfect antiphonal response to his clever idea.

I sent the link to Mr.Clarke’s post to Instapundit. I hope he spreads it around.

*** UPDATE ***


The blogger who writes “K Comments” left a link to the televised version of this phenomenon:



Check out K’s site for a comparison of the use of varieties of first person pronouns in a number of State of the Union speeches. Yes, Obama wins. Hands down.

Also check the comments on this post for some clever remarks made in the same spirit as Chris Clarke’s original post.

Dear Ali

Our Danish correspondent TB has translated an important op-ed from the Danish press. He includes this explanation of the article’s significance and history:

This is an op-ed that was published in the print edition of the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende a few months ago. It was not available online until a few days ago when Jeppe Juhl himself uploaded it to the online paper 180 Grader as a protest against one of the editor’s [Lars Pilegaard] obvious lack of knowledge about what is going on in our times.

Jeppe Juhl is a journalist and former editor. In 1989 he received the greatest prize a Danish journalist can get, the Cavling Prize. He won it for digging up a whole range of disproportions related to the administration of the Copenhagen Municipality. He has worked for several media outlets, including TV3, Kanal 5 and Ekstra Bladet.

I cannot hope to do Juhl’s op-ed full justice here. It is brilliant in Danish. I have done my best in translating the piece but I bear no illusions about living up to the quality of the original. But less is definitely also worth spending time on when the point of departure is of such a high standard.

The op-ed can be found here.

Here is TB’s translation:

Dear Ali

By Jeppe Juhl

Foreword by the author:

This op-ed is dedicated the anti-Zionist Lars Pilegaard [an associate of the Danish editor Ole Birk Olesen who can best be described as a Danish equivalent of Charles Johnson — translator] and uploaded to 180 Grader in an boundlessly naïve hope that moral relativists and other blinded souls will soon begin to understand that massive anti-Semitism have again emerged in our latitudes, and that criticism of Islam has nothing to do with racism.

The Goldstone Report about the alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza is just a cover for the decisive and indisputable fact that the very core reason for the miserable conditions in the Middle East is a suppressed and inherited hatred towards Jews in the Muslim world, which the Western world dares not address.

The fact that a naïve South African Jewish lawyer has been exploited as a figurehead for another round of demonization of the Israeli nation in the UN should not come as a surprise. Not even for the least well-informed. The Goldstone Report about the war in Gaza is a political perversion on which I will waste no more time. It is a symptom of the sad — and unfortunately empirically indisputable fact — that there exists widespread anti-Semitism in the Western World. In claims more than fulfilling Orwell’s’ notion of ‘newspeak’, these openly anti-Semitic Muslim countries and their Third World collaborators try — in all kinds of insufferable and easily seen-through ways — to transform night to day. If you skip all the intermediate results and current accounts, there is only one way forward as I see it: to address the root of evil — the thorough and deeply founded anti Semitism in the Muslim world. That is why I have written this open letter to the taxi driver Ali, who dropped me off in the middle of the highway when he overheard a conversation I had in my mobile phone, which made him realize that he was driving with a… Jew.

Dear Ali,

You don’t know me. And I don’t know you. One thing, however, I sadly do know for certain. The chance that you feel a deep, personal and heartfelt hate towards me is a statistical fact. Chances are that you and your brothers also would try to disable me if we ran in to each other on Nørrebrogade. And what is worse: you would be proud of your deed. Your friends, your family, and all of your acquaintances would back you up when you were summoned before the judge in court to receive your mild sentence. They would salute you as a hero while the judge presented to you your punishment, and your status in the open and pleasant Danish prison would be strong.

You see, Ali, I am a Jew. I do not have the characteristic curls, I do not wear a skullcap, and I have only been in synagogue six times since my Bar Mitzvah 36 years ago. Actually, I am not even a member of Mosaic Faith Community, but that is also completely irrelevant since you would hate me anyway.

- – - - – - – - -

Even though I no longer believe in the tooth fairy, Zeus, or Xualiltihocp as I believe in Yahweh. Even the thought of the non-historical Jew, Moses, receiving the stone tablets on Mount Sinai after migrating from Egypt — where the Jews never were — is as ridiculous and absurd for me as is the story of Jesus walking on water and raising the dead, or as the pedophile Mohammed taking to the sky on a white horse with wings. But it would not matter. You would still hate me. Because I am a Jew.

But Jewish I am. Nobody can take that away from me. Actually I am proud of my Jewish roots and of all the fabulous things that Jews have contributed throughout human evolution. Incredibly proud. Once in a while in an embarrassing way on the verge of being outright ridiculous. And then I am in other respects Danish. I write explicitly not ‘in other respects also Danish’. For me there exists no demarcation line. There are no religious, ethnic, cultural or emotional barriers between my Jewish background and the simple fact that I am as Danish as can be. And actually I am proud of being Danish. Incredibly proud. Once in a while in an embarrassing way on the verge of being outright ridiculous.

My family’s story is one of inconceivable sufferings: About pogroms, persecution, and lack of basic rights in an anti-Semitic Eastern Europe. It is a story of systematic scorn, mockery, and ridiculing, about desperate flight, about concentration camps and about survival. The story ends beautifully. With total assimilation in one of the best countries on the face of the earth. Beautiful and wonderful Dannevang [Denmark — translator].

My grandparents came here to create a better life, and by hard labor and love for the country that received them, they succeeded. There was no hate in Denmark. Only the deepest respect and an enormous amount of gratitude which is perhaps best symbolized by reciting the end replica of the Jewish divine service in the synagogue in Krystalgade: “God save the Queen and our native country Denmark…”

Yes, Ali. I am a Jew. I have a strong Jewish identity and I am a great supporter of the state of Israel with all the rational nuances upon which a thinking individual should build his personal views. Of course you do not like Israel, for which I cannot blame you and which I will return to in a moment. But there is another and much more important and fundamental difference between you and me — besides our view on Israel and our different points of origin: I do not hate you. On the contrary I wish you a long and rich life in peace and tolerance. Why in the world should I wish anything else? My reason to write you, Ali, is deeply personal. You see, I have almost completely given up the idea of dialogue. Dialogue requires two parts. Both parts being willing to listen. Dialogue demands will. Dialogue demands empathy and ability to listen to things that hurt. I must admit that I believe that this exercise is a complete waste of time, but for the benefit of you and those of like mind I will use what little doubt is left.

I will now ask you — and Frank Aaen, Torben Lund and Mogens Lykketoft [all MPs who have been very critical of Israel — translator] and all your other Danish friends — to follow me in a mysterious experiment. This experiment demands that we all clean our insides of prejudicial notions. Together we will wash the table clean. Completely clean!

Forget the bombardments in Gaza for a moment. Yes, I know it’s hard, but it is a precondition for this experiment. Forget the illegal Israeli settlements and the outright unintelligent attitude towards war and proportionality. Forget how the allies dropped bombs on the citizens of Dresden and Hamburg during the Second World War. Forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Forget the moral relativism which saturates an action-paralyzed and indifferent Europe. Completely ignore the meaningless UN. Forget that the mightiest state on earth with one corner of its mouth initiates aggressive wars in the name of democracy while with the other it cooperates with the worst Islamists of them all: the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. who use billions of dollars to poison Muslim youth in perverse madrassas around the world. Let sixty years with a complete absence of historical perspective, objective and factual distortions about backgrounds and causes of the unfortunate conflict in the Middle East rest for a second. Let us all ignore the obvious fact that it is a dangerous illusion to project western moral notions and rational thought upon movements which operate in an irrational world where life in the hereafter is more important than life in the present. Let us all forget what we think we know about the conflict.

I do that right now: I erase from my mind my certain knowledge that you and your brothers have been brought up in an environment with a systematic lie and a hate of such enormous dimensions that all hope of peace for many generations to come is in vain. That the lie becomes the truth just by repeating it again and again. That evil men who preach murder, darkness and medieval values exploit you and your younger brothers. That you have almost no chance of escaping this perverse spiral. That hopelessness, repression, and poverty logically force you into the arms of these men from the darkest of ages. That your religion has never had, and will never find, the enlightenment which is the embryo of a free life. That democracy is not the immediate solution for a bankrupt civilization. I force myself right now to clinically erase from my mind the obvious fact that you and your brothers in Gaza and in the Arab world are the unhappy victims of cynical despots, who rightly fear Islamism more than The West does. I repress the fact that you and your brothers have been exploited as political pawns in a prolonged, perverse, and opportunistic political game founded in religious and inherited anti-Semitism. I forget my fear about Iran developing a nuclear capability; repress the horror scenario which logically can only lead to a preventive and catastrophic intervention from the Israeli side. I ignore the rage that rises in my heart when moral equivalence between what is demanded from Israel stands in such sharp contrast to what is demanded of everybody else. I erase, here and now, my firm conviction that what is believed to be Israel’s fight is also the fight of The West. I use everything in my power to repress my negative view of the illegal settlements and my contempt for the religiously motivated mechanisms that constitute the biggest problem of them all: the division of Jerusalem as a utopia. I forget your hatred. I close my ears to the message from Hamas: “We, the Muslims, love death as much as the Jews love life”. I am purifying my mind.

It is pure now. Is yours?

Now we will both dig deep. All the way down into the substance which in mysterious ways defines us as human beings. Each of us should now ask himself the simple question: Do I want peace?

When you have reached your answer I will ask you: Do Hamas and Hezbollah?

Best wishes,
Jeppe Juhl

After the Blizzard

Snow January 2010 #7
Well, it wasn’t really a blizzard. We had just over a foot of snow (about 31 cm), quite a bit less than last time. But considering that we often go through entire winters with less than three inches of snow, to have had three feet of the stuff before February even begins is quite remarkable.

The porch railings were transformed into translucent causeways of snow, and there were perfect caps on all the posts, each one shaped like the hat of a garden gnome:

Snow January 2010 #5


The cars are just two white humps — it will take a while to dig them out:
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Snow January 2010 #6


And this is the curly willow, which even without snow is visually intricate:

Snow January 2010 #8


There may be more snow on Tuesday, and the forecast for next weekend predicts the possibility of another big storm like this one.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/30/2010

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/30/2010A recent survey of French popular opinion shows that 63% of the public are opposed to raising the retirement age to help the country cope with its pension crisis. Opponents of the proposal to raise the age beyond sixty believe that the current arrangement is an important part of French culture.

In other news, the Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh was traveling without bodyguards and under his real name when he was assassinated recently in the UAE. Hamas has vowed revenge against the Zionist entity.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Frontinus, Insubria, JD, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
Italy: Italians Gloomy But Hopeful for Tomorrow
Obama Finds $20b in Cuts
Spain: Unions United, No Increase to Retirement Age
 
USA
Confusion Re Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Finance
Councilwoman Accused of Racist Muslim Comment
Disgraced Former Obama Czar Reemerges
Justice Alito Was Right
Obama and Scott Brown Are 10th Cousins
 
Europe and the EU
Dutch MP’s Trial Reminiscent of Reporter’s Post-9/11 Writings
Fiat: Govt ‘Has Had Seven Offers for Sicily Plant’
G8: Italy ‘Wasted’ Almost €330 Mln on Location Change
Italy: Ministers to Face Empty Seats at Inauguration of Judicial Year
Italy Lags for Justice Pace
Pensions: France; 63% of French Against Raising Age
Survivors of Auschwitz Escaped One Nightmare Only to Face Another Unimaginable Ordeal
The Swiss v Islam’s Bayonets
UK: Grandmother Disgusted at Filthy Hospital Nursed and Bathed Other Patients on Her Ward
UK: Scandal of GPs Refusing to Work Nights and Weekends That Claimed This Boy’s Life
UK: The Big Fat Lies About Britain’s Obesity Epidemic
‘Zionism’ Remarks Anger Sweden Jews
 
North Africa
Italy-Egypt: History of Italian Presence at Cairo Book Fair
Spain: Rabat Asks for Compensation for Civil War Fighters
TV: Tunisia: Only Digital-Ready TV Starting in March
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Goldstone, Israel Presents Counter Report to UN
 
Middle East
Assassinated Al Mabhouh Travelled to UAE Without Bodyguards
Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-Long Struggle for Justice
Italy-Israel: Berlusconi Crucial Partner, But on Iran…
Turkey Leading Human Rights Violator, Says European Court
Turkey: Soldiers Will No Longer Guard Parliament Entrances
Turkey: Father Discovers Only One Twin is His Son Through DNA
Turkish Ambassador to Rome Under Internal Investigation
 
South Asia
Harassed, Intimidated, Abused: But Now Pakistan’s Hijra Transgender Minority Finds Its Voice
 
Latin America
Chavez: US ‘Tectonic Weapon’ Caused Haiti Quake
 
Immigration
England is Where We All Want to End Up…
Italy: Police Arrest 10 Immigrants in North
Let Them Leave: Why Migration is the Best Solution for Haiti’s Recovery
 
Culture Wars
Italy: Senate Freezes Abortion Pill
 
General
IPCC Again Shown to be Liars!

Financial Crisis


Italy: Italians Gloomy But Hopeful for Tomorrow

Vast majority see link between immigration and crime

(ANSA) — Rome, January 29 — The global economic downturn has made Italians more pessimistic on the economic situation in Italy today but at the same time there is growing optimism for the future, according to this year’s report on the country from the Eurispes socio-economic think tank.

Compared to a similar study two years ago, Eurispes found that the percentage of Italians who thought the economic situation had gotten worse rose from 37.6% in 2008 to 47,1% in 2010.

However, the percentage who believed the situation would get better almost doubled, from 10.9% to 18.3%, reducing the percentage of Italians who saw a bleak future to 36.3%.

Another 37.5% of Italians said they think the economic situation will not significantly change either way over the next 12 months.

Italians salaries, Eurispes reported, are far below most in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) but tax pressure in Italy is among the highest in the 30-nation group.

Based on data from 2008, the average Italian salary was said to be $21,374, placing Italy in 23rd place and far below its European partners like Germany ($29,570), France ($26,010) and Spain ($24,632).

Although Italy’s salaries are low, Eurispes said tax pressure stood at 46.5%, for an employee with no dependents, placing it sixth in the 30-nation OECD. Despite having lower salaries, Eurispes found that fewer Italians were having problems making it to the end of the month, 48.4% compared to the 53.4% who said they had to tighten their belts .

There was also a decline this year in the percentage of Italians who saw significant increases in consumer prices, from 83.4% in the 2009 Eurispes report to 56.8%. According to the 2010 study, 88.9% of Italians saw noticeable increases in prices for food, 86.3% for fuel, 74.9% for clothing and footwear, 74.3% for health costs and 66.7 for rents. Eurispes also calculated that single-person households in Italy rose 10.4% over the past three years, based on a seven-year trend set from 2001 to 2007.

Single-person households were said to be 32.1% of the total in the northwest, 20.5% in the northeast, 19.5% in central Italy and 17.6% in the south. People living alone were found to be more likely to be employed with 69.2% holding jobs and unemployment running at only 4.3%, compared to a national average for 2007 of 6.1%, a 14-year low. While another 25.6% of singles were retired and only 0.9% were drawing unemployment compensation, 53% of people living had permanent jobs, 28.1% were self-employed were and only 18.9% had term contracts or part-time employment.

ITALIANS SEE LINK BETWEEN IMMIGRANTS AND CRIME.

Looking at Italian society, Eurispes reported that 60% of Italians believe immigration has raised crime rates, with over 51% of Italians who described themselves as liberal acknowledging a relationship between immigrants and crime compared to 75% of conservatives.

Around a third of Italians fear foreign residents could spread disease, slightly less thought they threatened Italy’s cultural identity and just under a quarter said they were taking jobs from Italians. However, over 86% said foreign residents perform jobs Italians don’t want and 59% said they represent a source of cultural enrichment for the country.

In a section dedicated to crime, the report said that, based on data for 2008, mafia killings accounted for one in five of all homicides. Eurispes put the number of mafia-related deaths that year at over 106, with over half of them at the hands of the violent Camorra crime syndicate in the Campania area around Naples. Around 29% of the killings were connected to the increasingly powerful ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, which is now considered the most insidious of Italy’s mafias, and some 24% attributed to the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, while 20% were linked to the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia.

On the controversial issues of displaying crucifixes in classrooms and public buildings, Eurispes found that Italians had not changed their minds on the Christian symbol since 2006, with 60% still in favor of leaving them in place and over 50% opposed a recent European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling ordering their removal.

The 2010 Eurispes study also reported that workplace and road accidents cost Italian taxpayers 72 billion euros every year, amounting to 4.6% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Workplace and street accidents cost Italian taxpayers 72 billion euros every year, amounting to 4.6% of the country’s gross domestic product, while car and motorbike accidents racked up 28 billion euros in road rescue, medical bills and other service costs.

Other findings in the Eurispes report included that about one third of Italians took out a bank loan over the past three years, more parents were sending their children to private school and one out of three Italians drink alcohol.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Obama Finds $20b in Cuts

Twenty billion “dollars.” Cheers and shouting can be heard across the land! The Washington establishment elites believe we are all idiots so they feed us this kind of drivel.

The national debt is created by Congress borrowing from the privately owned Federal Reserve. Congress rents their fiat currency and the interest is the fruits of our labor.

On January 28, 2010, the interest we all ‘owe’ to this cabal was:

$12,274,431,428,037.28

What that means is the people’s purse, the U.S. Treasury, is over drawn $12.4 TRILLION dollars.

By what means shall this $20 billion be saved?

“One of the proposals would eliminate the “Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit,” which allows eligible taxpayers with children to get a portion of the a tax credit paid out in their paychecks throughout the year.

“The White House said only 514,000 people — 3 percent of those eligible — claimed the credit and the error rate for the program was high, with 80 percent of recipients not complying with one or more of the program’s requirements.

“This ineffective and prone-to-error program should be eliminated,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in the statement.”

I wonder what the total cost in man hours for government payroll has been during the duration of that program that has been found to be “ineffective” and “error prone”?

Right now, you and I ‘owe’ $112,998.00 to the banking cartel for the interest on the debt created by both parties. If you’ve never seen how the interest racks up, it will make you sick:

www.usdebtclock.org/

[Return to headlines]



Spain: Unions United, No Increase to Retirement Age

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 29 — The most important unions in Spain, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), are unified in their opposition against a government proposal to raise the pensionable age from 65 to 67, which will be approved today by the Council of Ministers. CCOO union boss Ignacio Fernandez Toxo, in statements to the media called the measure “unnecessary and unfair” and “tries to frighten society”. According to Toxo, the social security system “is in excellent health” and it is only necessary to “incentivise those who voluntarily decide to delay their retirement”, since the increase to the age of 67 penalises younger workers, women and immigrants on the job market, since these groups are hit harder by unemployment. UGT union secretary Candido Mendez, in statements to Radio Cadena Ser, said that this is a “very controversial proposal” and is “probably a short term measure to satisfy the financial markets” to contain negative forecasts on the Spanish economy by international groups and credit rating agencies. According to the IMF, Spain is the only developed country that will not come out of its recession in 2010, with negative GDP growth of 0.6%, and only in 2011 will it move into a timid recovery, with GDP growth of 0.9%. Faced with dramatic unemployment data, which in 2009 reached record numbers of 4,326,500 people, or 18.83% of the active population, Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho, who is also the leader of the EU Informal Council of Labour Ministers in Barcelona, defended the government plan. The measure will be applied starting in 2013, with a progressive increase of two months per year until reaching the age of 67 in 2025. According to Corbacho, “pensions are not at risk in the next ten years, but if we do not do anything,” he said, “they will be in the next 20 years”. The proposal will be passed today by the council of ministers, and will then be discussed by the unions and brought to Parliament for approval. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Confusion Re Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Finance

Have received quite a few emails since Obama/Soetoro gave his State of the Union address regarding the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The headlines splashed ‘Alito mouths not true’ and he was right. Obama/Soetoro lied. Every time he opens his mouth he lies. I expect nothing else because I knew what that hustler was all about long before the pretend election.

[Return to headlines]



Councilwoman Accused of Racist Muslim Comment

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) — A diverse group of Antelope Valley religious and political leaders are asking for Lancaster City Councilwoman Sherry Marquez, to apologize for what she wrote on her Facebook page about Muslims.

“Why this is of such great concern is that it isn’t something that was said to somebody or was overheard on an open microphone. It is because it went on the World Wide Web,” said Valerie Elliott of the Antelope Valley Interfaith Council.

A portion of what Marquez wrote on her Facebook page after reading a story about a Buffalo New York man accused of beheading his wife reads, “This is what the Muslim religion is all about. The beheadings, honor killings are just the beginning of what is to come in the U.S.A. We are told this is a small majority of Muslims in America, but it is truly what they are all about.”

“We need her apology to come from the heart, and that comes with education,” said Kamal Al-Khatib of the American Islamic Institute of A.V.

Marquez has her supporters. She was elected to the Lancaster City Council in 2008.

“Maybe she shouldn’t have commented on what she said. Maybe it was taken out of context.” said Ron Spears, a Lancaster resident. “It is just Facebook, and I’m sure she doesn’t want to offend any people. The more that I read about her, I’m sure she does not hate Muslim people in general.”

Marquez denied requests for interviews by Eyewitness News. Instead, she referred to a statement she read at a Tuesday night city council meeting.

“My reaction to that has now affected those and the city and to you. I apologize. I was, Saturday morning, and am still very disturbed every time I read about these horrific crimes against women and young girls. I will continue to voice my opinion and speak out about it,” she stated at the meeting.

While one group says that they’ll continue to ask Marquez to apologize to the Antelope Valley’s religious community, they have convinced the councilwoman to remove the statements from her Facebook page

           — Hat tip: Frontinus [Return to headlines]



Disgraced Former Obama Czar Reemerges

Communist-group founder to address world’s leading corporations

Van Jones, President Obama’s controversial former “green jobs” czar, is slated to address a major environmental forum next week alongside speakers from such major corporations as Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, Intel, Best Buy and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Jones resigned in September after it was exposed he founded a communist revolutionary organization and signed a statement that accused the Bush administration of possible involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Jones also called for “resistance” against the U.S. government.

[…]

Jones has not remained in the background since stepping down from his White House position.

White House still listening to Jones’ advice

WND reported Jones serves on the advisory board of an independent environmental organization actively working with the White House.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Justice Alito Was Right

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano

Despite claims made by the president, last week’s Supreme Court opinion on campaign finance specifically excludes foreign nationals and foreign-owned corporations from its ruling.

You can read the court’s full ruling here:

www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf

[Return to headlines]



Obama and Scott Brown Are 10th Cousins

According to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the president and Brown are 10th cousins. The group said Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and Brown’s mother, Judith Ann Rugg, are both descendants of Richard Singletary of Haverhill. Singletary died in 1687 when he was 102 years old.

Obama’s family is descended from Singletary’s oldest son, Jonathan, who changed his surname to Dunham. Brown’s family can be traced to Nathaniel Singletary, Jonathan’s brother, the group said in a press release issued today.

Brown won a surprise victory for the open Massachusetts Senate seat earlier this month, breaking the Democratic grip on the Senate and forcing Obama to rewrite his political agenda.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Dutch MP’s Trial Reminiscent of Reporter’s Post-9/11 Writings

By SALIM MANSUR, QMI AGENCY

As the trial of Dutch MP Geert Wilders for offending Muslims unfolds in Amsterdam, I am reminded of Oriana Fallaci’s post-9/11 writings on how she saw Europe wasted from within by the alien cultural force of Islam.

Fallaci was a fearless journalist and author. And though critics faulted her for intemperate language, especially when it came to writing about Islam, Wilders’ trial might well confirm her fears about Europe and the West were not misplaced.

In 2006, Fallaci published The Force of Reason in the U.S. This was a translation from Italian of her hugely successful book La Forza della Ragione, published in 2004, which followed her previous bestseller, The Rage and the Pride, written in the aftermath of 9/11.

In The Force of Reason, Fallaci wrote: “And there is a Europe which does not know where it goes. Which has lost its identity and sold itself to the sultans, the caliphs, the viziers, the mercenaries of the new Ottoman Empire.”

Italian authorities would indict Fallaci with similar charges as brought against Wilders. She was eager to testify at her trial, to turn her indictment against the authorities. But the case never got to court before her death in 2006 at age 77.

Great courage

Fallaci attributed her understanding of Europe’s fate in part to the writings of another woman of great courage. In Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide and Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Bat Ye’or, a Jewess born in Egypt and forced into exile, documented the recent history of Europe’s partnership with Arab states.

This Euro-Arab relationship has meant increased sensitivity in European capitals and among its political-intellectual elite for Arab-Islamic politics and culture. It is this sensitivity as political correctness that is on display at the Wilders’ trial.

But this sensitivity also inhibits the political-intellectual elite in Europe and North America from discussing the outrageousness of putting on trial Wilders, or anyone else, for speaking and writing on matters that might offend Muslims.

The demand by Europe’s officialdom — Canada’s officialdom is on the same page — that “free speech” must also meet the requirements of “responsible speech” when the subject is Islam is tantamount to repudiating Europe’s history that made her the cradle of the modern world of science and democracy.

The Wilders trial is indicative of Europe’s bleak future, as Fallaci had warned. This trial amounts to appeasing official Islam, which has demanded “defamation of religions,” according to a resolution adopted in the UN General Assembly in March 2008, be prohibited.

Moreover, in trying Wilders, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal has conceded space to the Islamists by accommodating, in practical terms, their demand for acceptance of Shariah (Islamic law) within secular society.

Abandonment

This can only mean abandoning those Muslims, especially women, who escaped from Islamic countries seeking freedom. They will become vulnerable once again to Islamists enforcing Shariah rule inside enclaves where Muslims reside within Europe.

And a Europe that appeases official Islam, while punishing its critics, will also be uncaring about the struggle for reform inside the Arab-Muslim world as in Iran. Such a Europe, as Fallaci so passionately raged against, will be then sliding into a new dark age.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Fiat: Govt ‘Has Had Seven Offers for Sicily Plant’

Rome, 29 Jan. (AKI) — Italian car giant Fiat has received seven offers for its plant in Termini Imerese, Sicily, Italy’s industry minister Claudio Scajola said on Friday. He was opening crucial talks in Rome with Fiat and trade union officials over plans to close the factory this year and temporarily shut down several plants next month.

“So far, we have had seven proposals on Termini Imerese. But we are evaluating their content carefully before we agree to any requests for talks on these,” said Scajola.

“We hope that Termini Imerese continues to produce cars,” he said.

A total 1,300 workers are expected to lose their jobs when the Termini Imerese factory is closed at the end of the year.

Although the tiny plant — Fiat’s smallest factory — is losing money, political and union leaders want it to remain operating, given its importance to the under-developed Sicilian economy.

Scajola described as “inopportune” Fiat’s announcement on Tuesday that it would close six car plants, including its main plant in the northern city of Turin, from 22 February until 7 March, laying off 30,000 workers.

Trade unions have sharply criticised the planned layoffs. Fiat announced these days after it reported an 800 million euro loss in 2009 and a 26 percent fall in car sales in the last quarter.

Italy is emerging from its worst economic slump in 60 years.

“The government is expecting answers from Fiat on its proposals for all its factories….we want to know what contribution it can make to new prospects for car production,” Scajola said

Scajola has convened a fresh round of talks on 5 February.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



G8: Italy ‘Wasted’ Almost €330 Mln on Location Change

Rome, 28 Jan.(AKI) — Italy spent 327 million euros in preparations for the Group of Eight summit on the island of Maddalena near Sardinia it was abruptly transferred to the mainland last year, according to the Italian daily, La Repubblica.

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was moved to the quake-stricken city of L’Aquila in act of solidarity with the victims and held there in July.

According to La Repubblica, the move meant that several buildings including a former military base that was turned into a compound for leaders including US President Barack Obama were abandoned.

A luxury hotel, one of the biggest projects inside the compound was close to completion before the move.

The hotel cost 75 million euros, or 742,000 euros per room, to construct and is yet to be completed, La Repubblica said.

Most of the development was funded by the region of Sardinia, according to the daily.

About 1,200 construction workers were employed at the building sites, which appear to have created no permanent jobs.

With less than three months to go before the arrival of world leaders including Obama, Berlusconi announced that the G-8 meeting would be transferred to the region of Abruzzo after it was devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in April.

The three-day international summit of the world’s wealthiest countries was held in July near L’Aquila which was largely levelled by the quake.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy: Ministers to Face Empty Seats at Inauguration of Judicial Year

Magistrates association (ANM): “No to personalised laws and no to insults to magistrates”. Justice minister says: “They have ruined a day that is for ordinary citizens

ROME— Magistrates all over Italy will take action after agreeing to a hard-hitting form of protest. Justice minister Angelino Alfano and his representatives will be speaking to empty chairs at Saturday’s inauguration of the judicial year. It is a very visible way of expressing “concern at legislation currently under way” and saying no to “personalised laws that destroy the judicial system”.

CONSTITUTION AND REPORT — At the ceremonies to be held at all appeal court districts, magistrates will be carrying a copy of the Italian constitution to “symbolise their strong attachment to the judicial function and the constitution”. They will leave the hall when the minister or ministry representative is due to speak in order to “testify to their concern at legislation currently under way, which threatens to destroy justice in Italy, and at the absence of initiatives necessary to ensure the efficiency of the system”. Magistrates will return at the end of the speech. Presidents of local branches of ANM, the magistrates’ association, will then read a document drafted by the central executive council (“No more laws without reason or coherence, designed exclusively for individual judicial processes, and which have brought criminal justice in this country to its knees. No more insults or attacks”). After this, presidents will hold up a copy of the report “Europe’s Truth about Italian Magistrates”, which will be handed to the president of the appeal court. Copies of the report will be distributed to all those present. Following the ceremony, each local executive will hold a media briefing at which the ANM document and the report will be presented and problems specific to each district explained.

REACTIONS — Politicians reacted to news of the magistrates’ decision. The People of Freedom’s (PDL) national coordinator, Sandro Bondi, said the initiative was “a profound, outrageous infringement of the democratic and constitutional order. A clear stance on the part of all institutions to safeguard legitimate democratic prerogatives is now a matter of urgency”. In contrast, the Italy of Values (IDV) group leader in the Senate, Massimo Donadi, referred to “a just protest at a disgraceful law. Alfano has shown on a thousand occasions that he is not the minister of justice. He is Berlusconi’s anti-magistracy commissioner”.

ALFANO — Later on, the justice minister replied: “I am the minister of justice, I serve my country and I have sworn on the constitution. Unlike those who are going to follow ANM’s short-sighted suggestions, I will be present at the inauguration of the judicial year at the Supreme Court of Cassation, in the presence of the president of the republic”, announced Angelino Alfano, the justice minister, in a note. Mr Alfano continued: “Similarly, I will be going tomorrow to the appeal court at L’Aquila, where the justice service has started to function brilliantly again after the earthquake, thanks to the efforts of the institutions and of many public servants. Instead of inaugurating the judicial year, ANM has decided to inaugurate an election campaign in view of the upcoming vote for the magistracy’s ruling council, the CSM, which will be held in the spring. ANM has opted to ruin a day that is about Italian citizens and their right to justice. The image ANM is offering of itself does not coincide with the image and sense of ethics of the thousands of magistrates who every morning serve Italy and the institutions they represent”.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy Lags for Justice Pace

‘Stealth tax’ on business says top judge

(ANSA) — Rome, January 29 — Italy lags far behind its European competitors because of its snail-paced justice system which puts “a stealth tax” on businesses of some 2.3 billion euros a year, Cassation Court President Vincenzo Carbone said Friday.

Italy was 150th of 181 countries in the latest World Bank rankings of justice speed, below countries like Angola, Gabon and Guinea, Carbone told dignitaries including Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Premier Silvio Berlusconi at a ceremony marking the start of the judicial year.

Over the last year, he said, “all the European countries showed slight progress while in Italy it still takes 1,210 days to get a loan back,” he said.

On average, civil cases took 1,000 days to get under way and too many years to be completed, he said, noting that trials were slower in the south than in the north.

Italy also had “too many lawyers,” he said, pointing out that there were 26.4 lawyers per judge in Italy compared to 7.1 in France, 6.9 in Germany and 3.2 in the UK. Carbone rapped prosecutors for appearing “too often” on talk shows but said Italian judges worked “very hard”.

He said that while reforms were needed to streamline the system, these must not be dictated by “cases in the news”.

Noting that there had been 79 justice laws over the last 20 years, “or one every three months,” Carbone said political intervention had too often taken place “without worrying about damage to the system, which needs stability if it is to work”.

While judicial reform was urgently required, he stressed that the wheels of Italian justice were also gummed up by “an abuse of appeals, a lack of filters, an excessive number of lawyers and a lack of alternatives to trial”.

Carbone said judicial costs could be radically cut by redrafting the “19th-century” map of judicial districts, a reform which was “urgently” needed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Pensions: France; 63% of French Against Raising Age

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 29 — A survey has found that 63% of French people oppose the idea of raising the legal age for receiving the state pension from 60, considering it to be a social-security achievement from which “it would be a mistake to turn back”. Carried out by the BVA Institute on behalf of the French daily Les Echos and for Radio France Info, the survey found that only 34% of those interviewed believed that the raising of the age represented an opportunity, given the trend of increasing longevity. Some 3% of those interviewed said they had no opinion on the matter: a low figure. Pension reform is shaping up to be one of the main points on the 2010 agenda. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing party is aiming to increase the age at which pensions become payable beyond the threshold of 60, but is facing stiff opposition from the Left. Having become effective in 1982, the reduction of the age to 60 was a symbolic reform of Francois Mitterand socialist tenure. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Survivors of Auschwitz Escaped One Nightmare Only to Face Another Unimaginable Ordeal

Although some Holocaust survivors truly found joy after being freed from Auschwitz, for many it was a very different story — and one that most definitely does not offer us a happy ending.

A story of abuse, rape, theft and terrible betrayal.

For a start, despite being friendly to the victims, the Russians were strangely unaffected by what they saw at Auschwitz.

Indeed, the liberation was hardly reported in the Soviet Press — on February 2, 1945, there was a small report in Pravda, but hardly the coverage you would imagine.

One reason is that many of the Soviet soldiers who first arrived at Auschwitz had themselves endured horrors beyond imagining on the Eastern Front.

[…]

Another factor was that the Soviets wanted to make political capital out of the death camps.

Their Marxist propaganda downplayed the suffering of the Jews — even though out of the 1,100,000 people killed at Auschwitz, 1,000,000 were Jews — in order to claim that the murder factory was an example of fascist capitalism’s exploitation of expendable workers.

In Soviet minds, there was little suggestion that this was genocide, no real belief that the souls they had liberated deserved special sympathy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Swiss v Islam’s Bayonets

By James Neilson

To the dismay of all right-thinking people in Europe, the backward Swiss still cling to the old-fashioned custom of letting ordinary folk influence government policy. The fruits of such irresponsibility were made unpleasantly plain a couple of weeks ago when a majority voted in a referendum to ban the construction of more minarets in their country. Their objections had little to do with architecture. As Turkey ‘s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had helpfully explained to them: “The minarets are our bayonets, the domes our helmets, the mosques our barracks and the faithful our army.” Seeing most Swiss dislike the idea of being stabbed in the guts by the soldiers of what to them is an alien creed, the desire of 57 percent of those who took part in the referendum to keep Erdogan’s “bayonets” out of sight was not that surprising.

Nor was it that in a series of polls improvised by newspapers elsewhere in Europe the majorities in favour of banning minarets were even bigger than in Switzerland. “Islamization” is now a hot issue everywhere from the northernmost tip of Norway to the southern coast of Crete. It is not a matter of racism as apologists for the status quo would have it: hardly anyone gets worked up by the presence of Chinese, Hindus or Sikhs. On the contrary, they are regarded as model immigrants. It is entirely to do with the aggressive refusal of too many members of one particular creed to make any attempt to assimilate. Like European colonists of yesteryear, Muslims in Europe seem determined to impose their own beliefs and their own cultural mores on the natives, many of whom feel they have been betrayed by their respective governments.

Ironically, the main reason European leaders opted to open the doors to indiscriminate mass immigration was the horror and shame so many felt for letting the holocaust happen. They told themselves that religious and ethnic prejudice led inevitably to genocide so it was wrong to pick and choose, admitting people they thought could adapt to the host society and rejecting those who in all probability would refuse to do so. The upshot was that an astoundingly creative minority was replaced by another whose contributions have, one might say, been mixed. Plenty of individual Muslims have proved to be fine upstanding citizens, but on the whole the large communities they have formed have been exceedingly troublesome and, for the welfare services, hugely expensive. When asked by reporters just why they had voted to ban minarets, many Swiss said they did not want their country to go the way of the UK, France, Belgium and Holland where street riots, terrorist threats, and the “honour killings” of women for breaking ancestral codes of conduct have become routine.

As was to be expected, government spokesmen in such bastions of religious freedom as Turkey , Saudi Arabia , Libya , etc, harshly condemned the Swiss. In most of the Muslim world, anyone rash enough to try to build a church or synagogue who manages to overcome the countless bureaucratic and legal hurdles is liable to be torn apart by an enraged mob, but because they are convinced that theirs is the only true faith, that minor detail did not impress them in the slightest. Their Western sympathizers could also insist that everyone should be true to his own principles, meaning that mosques, minarets, burqas and promises to decapitate anyone who speaks ill of the prophet Muhammad or his legacy should be tolerated in Europe and the Americas, but it would be most unreasonable to demand that Muslim countries treated Christians, Jews and Hindus with similar respect. For now at least, there is little chance that the Europeans will prohibit the establishment of mosques in their countries until Saudi Arabia permits the building of churches and synagogues throughout the kingdom, without excluding such “holy cities” as Mecca.

It is now widely agreed that multiculturalism, the notion that all ways of life and belief systems are equally valid and that providing Europeans make amends for their criminal past everyone can live happily together, was a big mistake. Unless people take some pride in their own achievements and those of their forefathers, societies will be in no shape to accommodate newcomers who reject out of hand the multicultural pieties because they know perfectly well that their own traditions are superior to all others. Unfortunately, it took several decades for awareness of that disquieting truth to sink in, decades in which the European Union acquired an intolerant minority that is already about 20 million-strong, with over 50 million in Europe as a whole, and which enjoys the enthusiastic support of oil-rich countries in the Middle East and North Africa whose leaders have no qualms when it comes to making use of their economic leverage. As far back as 1974, the Algerian leader Hoauri Boumédienne said Islam would conquer Europe “through the wombs of our women,” a promise that since then has been echoed frequently by his Libyan neighbour Muammar Khaddafy. Just how the resulting drama will play out is anybody’s guess; if the history of Europe, India and many other places is any guide, the conflicts to come between the native population and those who openly aspire to replace them will not be pretty.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



UK: Grandmother Disgusted at Filthy Hospital Nursed and Bathed Other Patients on Her Ward

A grandmother was so disgusted by the filthy conditions and neglect on a hospital ward that she bathed and cared for the patients herself.

Janet Halsall, 74, was admitted to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, for three days to have a scan on her liver, when she was shocked to see staff repeatedly ignore pleas for help and leave fellow elderly patients to ‘fend for themselves’.

The kind-hearted pensioner was so appalled by the conditions in the hospital that she bathed, washed and tucked in the frail elderly patients herself.

The grandmother-of-seven said fellow patients were distressed after being left without water, and when she went to the pantry to clean their glasses, she found it in a ‘disgusting state’.

When one elderly lady got no help after repeatedly complaining to staff she was cold, Mrs Halsall was moved to search a store cupboard for a blanket.

The former hairdresser even washed and bathed one lady who needed help to clean herself and took another pensioner to the toilet after staff continually ignored her requests because they were ‘too busy’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Scandal of GPs Refusing to Work Nights and Weekends That Claimed This Boy’s Life

It was a nightmare that would be made all the more ghastly because of the fact that Joseph’s death had been avoidable.

His parents had sought medical help for their son, who had tonsillitis. Joseph was prescribed antibiotics, but when he started to vomit and had diarrhoea, Mr Seevaraj phoned for further help.

Because it was a Sunday, he could not talk to the family doctor. Instead, he was connected to the out-of-hours service and was put through to a German-trained medic.

The locum doctor, who Mr Seevaraj claims struggled to understand what was being said to him, told him there was nothing to worry about and that, no, it wasn’t necessary to bring in the child for further treatment.

Mr Seevaraj followed that advice — and the following morning woke to find that his son was dead.

An inquest would later hear that had Joseph been taken to hospital, then the septicaemia that claimed his life could have been treated.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: The Big Fat Lies About Britain’s Obesity Epidemic

We are doing approximately 25 per cent more exercise than we were in 1997.

But are our waist lines shrinking? No. In fact, a quick glance around most High Streets would suggest the opposite is happening — with even young girls displaying ‘muffin tops’.

This ‘spare tyre’ of abdominal fat is an accurate indicator of future health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes.

So what is really behind this obesity epidemic? I’ll tell you.

We’re following Government advice on how and what to eat, but that advice is so wrong it is actually making us fatter.

The endless message of ‘eat less, do more’ has never been proven using proper clinical trials.

And we’ve only started to get really fat since governments started promoting the current low-fat health messages, back in the early Nineties.

I’m a lawyer by training and I became convinced that the rise in obesity must be partly due to bad guidance. So I set out to look at the research studies on which government advice is based.

What I found has shocked me.

The Government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), among others, is pumping out a template of a balanced diet that is based on flawed science that I believe is responsible for thousands of people developing health problems.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Zionism’ Remarks Anger Sweden Jews

CAIRO — The mayor of Sweden’s third most populous city of Malmo has angered the Jewish community in the Scandinavian country for equating Zionism to extremism.

“These statements and other events in Malmo are making the Jewish community feel very uncomfortable,” George Braun, a Swedish Jewish leader, told Haaretz on Friday, January 29.

“Some people, especially the young, are leaving the city.”

Malmo mayor Ilmar Reepalu on Wednesday described Zionism as a form of ‘unacceptable extremism’.

“We accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism,” Reepalu told a local newspaper.

“They are extremes who put themselves above other groups, seeing others as something lesser.”

Zionism is an international political movement that spearheaded the creation of a homeland for the Jewish People in Palestine.

On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin’s Irgun militant group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist militants and 70,000 Palestinians fled.

On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of the Palestinian city of Jaffa — the largest city in Palestine at that time, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.

On May 14, the day before the creation of Israel, Jaffa completely surrendered to the much better-equipped Zionist militants and only about 4,500 of its population remained.

Israel was created on the rubble of Palestine on May 15, 1948.

Slamming Israel

Jewish leaders accused the Malmo mayor of discrimination, lashing out at his criticism of the deadly Israeli war in Gaza.

“Reepalu does not address other communities in a similar manner and his words constitute discrimination against local Jews,” Charlotte Wiberg of the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism told Yediot Aharonot.

“Reepalu chose not to show solidarity with Jews facing danger in Malmo, but rather, with the people who wish to marginalize a religious group because of Israel’s policy.”

In his interview, the Swedish mayor urged the Malmo Jews to disassociate themselves from Israeli assaults in Gaza.

“I wish the Jewish Community would distance itself from Israel’s violations of the rights of the civilian population in Gaza,” he said.

The mayor also criticized demonstrations by local Jews in support of last year’s Israeli war in Gaza.

“I wish that representatives of Muslims in Malmo would clearly say that the Jews in Malmo shouldn’t be mixed up in the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

At least 1,400 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured when Israel launched a three-week deadly onslaught in Gaza in late 2008.

The onslaught wrecked havoc on the infrastructure of the densely-populated Gaza enclave, leaving some 20,000 homes and thousands other buildings in ruins.

A UN fact-finding committee headed by world-renowned judge Richard Goldstone, a Jew, accused Israel of committing war crimes during the Gaza war.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Italy-Egypt: History of Italian Presence at Cairo Book Fair

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 29 — The paper was called the Egyptian Messenger, (‘Il Messaggero Egizianò), formerly ‘Lloyd Egiziano’ and it issued regular editions between 1876 and 1930. Now its yellowed pages, some of the documents on show in the Italian Pavilion at the 42nd Cairo Book Fair, tell the story of modern Italy’s presence in Egypt. Opening the pavilion, Ambassador Claudio Pacifico spoke of how the presence had been an active one, committed on the economic and business fronts as well as on those of culture and archaeology, providing the background to the close bonds which made Italy Egypt’s first European partner and one of its first in the world. The exhibition begins its documentation with a precious 17th century book by Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit who lived in Rome and was the first to uncover the links between the Egyptian and Coptic languages, and it closes with the birth certificate of Giuseppe Ungaretti, born in Alexandria in 1888. But it is also flanked by the show dedicated to 140 years of the Suez Canal, with documentation of Italian involvement in the great work, from the planning stages (with Luigi Negrelli) to those of construction under director of works Edoardo Gioia. There is also an anastatic reprint of the book by Luigi Antonio Balboni ‘Gli Italiani nella Civilta’ Egiziana del secolo XIX’, (Italian Contributions to 19th Century Egyptian Civilisation) edited by the Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute of Cairo. The Italian Pavilion is also being attended by the country’s Foreign Minister as well as by the ministers for Youth and Culture, representatives of both Houses, of the Lazio and Apulia regions as well as of foundations, banking and cultural institutions, and the Rome Chamber of Commerce. Italy will continue to participate in the Fair, which this year has Russia as its guest of honour, until it ends on February 7. There are to be several debates, including one on journalism and the Internet with the writer Beppe Severgnini, who was one of the speakers at yesterday’s meeting at the American University. This evening’s highlight are the ‘Solisti Veneti’ in a concert at the Cairo Opera House. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Rabat Asks for Compensation for Civil War Fighters

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 29 — Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taib Fasi Fihri, asked the Spanish government to give Moroccan soldiers who participated in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and their families compensation for the damages they suffered. “Morocco invites Spain to read our shared history with different eyes, with serenity and without prejudice, following a scientific method to shed light on the dark areas”, Fasi Fihri stated yesterday before the Moroccan parliament. According to the minister, the Moroccans who fought in the Spanish conflict which put brother against brother are estimated at somewhere between 100,000 and 130,000 by the government in Rabat, while Spanish sources say that the number is just 80,000. There were at least 9,000 children among those recruited, according to what Fasi Fihri claimed. Currently 2,000 of the former soldiers are still alive and reside in the northern provinces of Morocco and in Western Sahara, according to estimations made by the Moroccan Association for Veteran Fighters. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



TV: Tunisia: Only Digital-Ready TV Starting in March

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 29 — Starting on March 1, the sale of television sets that are incompatible with digital terrestrial TV will be prohibited, reports infotunisie website, which specified that “this decision is part of a plan to migrate towards digital television and to be in tune with the innovations and changes in global technology.” Infotunisie pointed out that there has been a ban on “television imports (plasma, LCD and CRT television sets) that are not equipped with a digital tuner since January 1 2010”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Gaza: Goldstone, Israel Presents Counter Report to UN

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 29 — A 40-page counter report, deposited at the UN, in response to accusations of war crimes contained in the document written in recent months by the commission led by the South African judge, Richard Goldstone, on the military offensive Cast Lead that took place one year ago. This is the defensive move formalised today by Israel to justify the operations of the country’s servicemen in the three weeks of strikes carried out in the Gaza Strip (in the hands of the radical Islamic Palestinians, Hamas) between December 28, 2008, and January 18, 2009: a conflict launched with the declared intention of putting an end to the recurrent rocket launches by Hamas militia against the south of Israel and which concluded with a death toll of 14 Israelis and 1,400 Palestinians (amongst whom hundreds of civilians). The report, confirmed Defence Minister Ehud Barak from Tel Aviv, is addressed to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and was handed to New York after the approval of the government and the finishing touches by Premier Benyamin Netanyahu. It responds synthetically, but point by point, to the criticism contained in the Goldstone tirade of over 1,000 pages, which is not lacking in criticism of Hamas but is extremely severe in regard to Israel. Using documents and photos, the Israeli text contests in particular the credibility of testimonies collected by the South African judge and by other members of the UN Commission in the Gaza Strip, while it denies any episodes of deliberate firing on civilians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Assassinated Al Mabhouh Travelled to UAE Without Bodyguards

DAMASCUS // Mahmoud al Mabhouh was without his bodyguards when he was murdered in his Dubai hotel room, having travelled to the Emirates under his real name, officials in Hamas’s Syrian headquarters revealed yesterday.

The officials confirmed that al Mabhouh, a leading member of Hamas’s military wing, was a key arms supplier for the group, and was in the UAE on “a mission” when he was killed, possibly by Israeli agents.

No further information about the purpose of his trip was given, other than it was expected to last a few days and that al Mabhouh had taken the unprecedented step of travelling without a security detail. Hamas has now launched a review of internal security, the officials said.

Rather than using a passport with an assumed identity, al Mabhouh booked his ticket under his real name. “He has five passports, one of them with his real name the other with different names, and this time he travelled under his actual identity,” said Talal Nasser, a senior spokesman for Hamas in Damascus. “He has travelled to Dubai many times before in this way without any problems.”

As a senior member of Hamas’s military faction, the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades, al Mabhouh would typically be accompanied by security guards, Mr Nasser said, but had failed to do so on this occasion because no reservations had been made for them with the airline. “Everywhere he goes he takes bodyguards but there was no booking for them on this flight, so he travelled alone,” Mr Nasser explained. “The guards were due to follow him on the next available flight the following day.”

Al Mabhouh, who lived with his family in Damascus, flew to Dubai on January 19. He was murdered in the Al Bustan Rotana on January 20.

According to Hamas, citing information it said it received from Dubai authorities, he was electrocuted while walking in the hotel corridor, dragged into his room, and then strangled.

“We are now very carefully studying our security plans for all senior figures, we are reviewing all our measures to make sure that we are as well protected as possible,” Mr Nasser said.

“We do not have all of the details yet but maybe he [al Mabhouh] made a telephone call about his plans from a mobile that was intercepted.”

Mr Nasser added: “It is also standard for airlines to fax advance notice of their passengers, so that may have given the assassins a chance.”

Dubai’s police chief, Lt Gen Dahu Khalfan Tamim, confirmed that al Mabhouh had entered the country on a passport bearing his real name.

While involvement of Mossad, Israel’s overseas security agency, had not been ruled out as part of the ongoing investigation, Lt Gen Tamim said his officers were “pursuing individual suspects, not an organisation”.

“We know everything about the suspects’ identity due to the strong evidence they left behind, and we will contact several countries which are connected to the suspects to provide us with all the necessary information,” he said.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Dubai authorities said the suspects were mostly European passport holders and members of an “experienced criminal gang” who had been monitoring al Mabhouh’s movements.

The Israeli government has not commented on the incident but Tel Aviv has long followed a policy of assassinating opposition figures, both inside the Palestinian territories and overseas.

Hamas says Israel tried and failed to kill al Mabhouh three months ago and insists there is no doubt Mossad was responsible. The murder means that two founding members of the Qassam Brigades are now dead. Salah al Shardeh, who effectively set up the group with al Mabhouh, was assassinated by Israeli forces in 2003. Hamas’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was also assassinated, in an air strike in 2004 in Gaza City.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some Hamas figures said the loss of an experienced operator like al Mabhouh, 50 years old at the time of his death, would have an impact on the group’s ability to stage military strikes. He masterminded Hamas’s first successful operation to kidnap Israeli soldiers in 1989.

Mr Nasser said: “Mahmoud al Mabhouh played a key role in supplying the Palestinian people with weapons and money. His central role in the 2008/2009 Gaza war was clear, he supplied Palestinian fighters with special weapons, he was an important figure for our military.

“But his murder is not a victory for Israel, it is a victory for the resistance. The blood of Mahmoud al Mabhouh will spawn a thousand more like him.”

Hamas said it hoped to co-operate with the UAE security services in investigating the killing but there appears to be little prospect of that happening.

Lt Gen Tamim. said: We do not deal with anybody apart from a country’s official representatives in our country; in this case, it is the Palestinian Embassy here,”

Dr Khairi Aridi, the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE, said he had been contacted by national authorities regarding the case and would provide any assistance to the UAE if requested to do so.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, controlled by Fatah, have been locked in an internal conflict since the Islamic movement won elections in the Gaza strip in 2006.

Al Mabhouh’s remains were flown back to Syria on Thursday, and he was buried in a cemetery in Yarmouk Camp, a Palestinian area of Damascus, alongside other fallen militants on Friday.

Thousands of mourners turned out for his funeral, including Hamas’ exiled leader Khalid Meshaal, who lives in Damascus.

Hamas vowed to avenge the death, saying it would do so at a time and place of its choosing, although some Hamas members in the Damascus office predicted retaliation would come quickly, within weeks.

Mr Nasser also insisted that Hamas military strength would eventually increase as a result of the killing, even if it did represent a temporary setback.

“There are only two options for the resistance, victory or death and the martyr Mahmoud Mabhouh knew that. It is not possible to be secure all the time, even if you do everything right.

“But this death will be a curse on those who were involved. Israel will pay. They will know our response soon enough.”

           — Hat tip: Frontinus [Return to headlines]



Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-Long Struggle for Justice

Much has been written about the deportation and slaughter of the Armenians by the Ottomans in 1915, but much less has been written about what followed in the years after — which is odd given that the event is so deeply seared into the memories of Armenians everywhere and remains an immense burden on modern Armenian-Turkish relations. At every turn, Bobelian argues, from the post-World War I peace to the failure of the U.S. Congress to pass genocide resolutions in the 1990s, the Armenian cause has fallen victim to broken Western promises and been sacrificed to the priorities of others. He carefully unwinds three entwined threads, starting with the hopes for an independent homeland that were dissolved when Armenia was absorbed into Soviet Russia. The second thread emerges from the 1920s onward, when Atatürk’s Turkey made denial of the episode an element of the country’s emergent nationalism. The third thread is the quest to have the events of 1915 recognized as genocide, efforts that have been thwarted by U.S. administrations concerned with protecting relations with a NATO ally.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy-Israel: Berlusconi Crucial Partner, But on Iran…

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 29 — Silvio Berlusconi is “a crucial partner” of Israel and will be received in the Jewish state as “a friend”, but the level of trade between Italy and Iran worries Israel and “must be discussed in Jerusalem” during the bilateral summit set to take place at the start of next week, wrote Yediot Ahronot today, the most widely read daily in Israel, in a long analysis on the summit. According to the newspaper, it is undeniable that Berlusconi “has radically changed the political climate in Italy regarding Israel” and is perceived by the Jewish state today as “a crucial partner”, also with respect to other European leaders on decisive topics such as “the fight against anti-Semitism”, terrorism and EU-Israeli relations. In particular, the article pointed out Israel’s support of Italy’s EU presidency in 2003, resulting in entering Hamas into the group’s black list of terrorist organisations; or the constant support received from Rome in the past years in the UN; or the sensitivity demonstrated on the recent International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel’s speech in Parliament. They did not leave out personal elements like a younger Berlusconi’s ties with Yosef Nissim, a Jewish businessman who was his friend and partner, with whom he still has an important relationship. “However, with all of the friendship and sincere love of Berlusconi for Israel,” writes Yediot Ahronot, the fact that there is a “business problem” cannot be denied. “There are two sides of the coin (regarding Italian-Israeli relations)”, continued the newspaper, “and on the other is the number 7 billion euros”: the total amount of trade between Italy and Iran in 2008. A figure that is “four times greater” than in 2001, the year in which Berlusconi returned to lead the Italian government, and which makes Italy a leading country in Europe for imports and exports with Tehran, despite their repeated consideration of a possible harshening of sanctions in response to fears of Iran’s nuclear programme. According to Yediot Ahronot, at the summit in Jerusalem, Berlusconi must “cope with these two aspects”, amid the backdrop of Italian gas and oil giant ENI’s interests in Iran, but also of companies that — according to speculation in the press — are reportedly committed in cooperation projects with Iran to launch satellites or the build tunnels that could be used to potentially connect bunkers and hide “pieces of nuclear reactors”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey Leading Human Rights Violator, Says European Court

The European Court of Human Rights said it issued 2,395 rulings in 2009, an increase of 27 percent from the previous year, with Turkey and Russia as the biggest offenders, according to annual figures released Thursday.

Judges issued 341 rulings against Turkey, more than 200 of them concerning the workings of its national courts and 30 following complaints of inhuman or degrading treatment.

Russia remained in second place with 210 rights violations, including three for torture and 84 for inhuman treatment — mostly from war-torn Chechnya.

Russia is also by far the biggest source of complaints with 28 percent. The foreign ministry in Moscow says many these relate to conditions in jails and abuses committed by government forces in Chechnya.

The Russian parliament has just voted to ratify a key protocol that allows reforms streamlining the Strasbourg court to go ahead.

The protocol had been blocked by Moscow lawmakers in 2006 amid complaints that the court was anti-Russian.

Europe’s top rights court is battling to come to grips with an increasing workload that soared by nearly a quarter last year. The number of pending cases at the Strasbourg tribunal rose by 23 percent to 119,300, the court said in its annual report.

The European Court of Human Rights, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, can be appealed to by 818 million people in the 47-country Council of Europe if they feel their national courts have failed.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Soldiers Will No Longer Guard Parliament Entrances

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 29 — The duty of guarding the entrances of the parliament will now be handed over from soldiers to police officers, as Turkish media report today. As Turkey debates allegations of plans for a coup, the Security Coordination Council for Turkey’s Grand National Assembly has quietly signed on to a very significant decision. Accordingly, from now on, police will replace soldiers in standing guard 24-hours a day over the Parliamentary buildings three entrances, Cankaya, Dikmen and Ayranci. The fact that certain parliamentary members were not allowed entrance by soldiers keeping guard overnight and on the weekends was an influential factor in the decision to assign the entrance guard duty to police forces instead of soldiers. The Assemblys Security Coordination Council made the decision after receiving a number of complaints on the issue by parliamentarians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Father Discovers Only One Twin is His Son Through DNA

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 29 — A Turkish man on the point of divorcing his wife, who gave birth to twin boys three years ago, has had a nasty surprise. Thanks to a DNA test, it is has been uncovered that only one of his sons is in fact his own. Daily newspaper Sabah has reported on the surreal matter caused by an extremely rare phenomenon called super-insemination. The newspaper reports that the man, a security services agent from Istanbul named only as A.K., had started to suspect that his wife was being unfaithful and, before launching the divorce process, he had DNA tests carried out on his two sons. From these tests it emerged that only one of the presumed twins was 99.99% his own, a result confirmed by a second laboratory appointed by the court to repeat the test. The explanation of everything lies in the fact that before marrying A.K. at the wishes of her family, the woman had a lover who was already married and who, in turn, has three children and who she still saw after getting married. One day the woman had sexual intercourse with both men: with her lover in the morning and with her husband in the evening. With a one in a million chance statistically speaking, she had a double ovulation that day and thus got pregnant twice. The ending to the story is that A.K.s real son has been entrusted to his father by the court while the other son has been sent to an orphanage, while A.K.s wife — who has received death threats from her own family members and from her ex-husbands family (who feel dishonoured) — has received a restraining order to remain at least 500m away from her ex-husbands home. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkish Ambassador to Rome Under Internal Investigation

Turkey’s ambassador to Rome is under investigation over claims of sexual harassment, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned from official sources.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry is investigating accusations against Ambassador Ali Yakital for misconduct while he was in Rome, according to official sources. Yakital was appointed ambassador to Italy approximately three months ago.

The sources said Yakital might be called back if the allegations are found to be true.

Before his appointment to Rome, Yakital, a career diplomat, had worked in the Prime Ministry as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main advisor on foreign-policy issues and was known to be part of the premier’s inner circle.

The Foreign Ministry regularly appoints one or two ambassadors as foreign-policy advisors to prime ministers.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Harassed, Intimidated, Abused: But Now Pakistan’s Hijra Transgender Minority Finds Its Voice

New civil rights for Pakistan’s long-oppressed ‘wedding dancers’ offer hope of a better life

Down a grimy alleyway in Rawalpindi, in the heart of Pakistan’s military establishment, a striking figure tweaked her makeup and squirted a dash of perfume under her arms.

Life as a hijra, as Pakistan’s ­transgender minority is known, can be tough, said 21-year-old Alisha, recounting tales of extortion, sexual violence and predatory policemen. But of late things have started to improve.

The government has offered help, the hijras’ plight has come into the public eye, and even the police are showing a little respect.

“They call us the chief justice’s darlings,” she said.

An unlikely revolution is stirring among Pakistan’s transgender community. Over the past six months the supreme court has issued a series of ground-breaking judgments in favour of hijras, who have long lived under a cloud of disapprobation and ­discrimination.

Spurred by the forceful chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was restored after countrywide protests last year, normally moribund authorities have been ordered to ensure hijras enjoy the same rights as other Pakistanis, in matters of inheritance, employment and election registration.

Police have been warned to cease harassment and intimidation. Pakistan’s national database and registration authority, which issues ID cards, has been told to research a third option under the “sex” column.

“Times are changing,” said Almas Bobby, leader of one of the largest group of hijras in Rawalpindi. “Our community feels good for the first time in 60 years.”

The changes have triggered a heady sense of possibility.

In October hijras in the southern city of Sukkur fielded the country’s first hijras cricket team. After winning their inaugural match, the captain thanked the chief justice.

The exuberance is spreading. Earlier this month about 100 hijras from across Punjab crammed into a tented rooftop area for a raucous dance party.

Showers of rose petals filled the air as hijras of all ages, draped in sequined dresses and bedecked in costume jewellery, danced into the small hours — whirling and swinging their hips in the manner of Bollywood movie stars.

The hijras’ roots run deep in Asia: many were respected courtesans in the courts of the Moghul emperors who ruled south Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. One even commanded troops into battle.

But behind the merriment, hijra life can be lonely and dangerous in a conservative society such as Pakistan.

Most hijras describe themselves as “professional wedding dancers” (women performers are forbidden under Pakistani law) but campaigners say their main sources of income hail from begging and prostitution.

Alisha, who worked as a makeup artist to pay for silicon implants, sported a 36B bra under a red sequinned dress. “I’ve always felt like a girl in my soul,” she said. But her voice also rang with sadness: her middle-class Islamabad family cast her out. She pointed to Azeem, a middle-aged hijra who once worked as head of ­housekeeping in a five-star hotel.

“Now she is my mother and father,” Alisha said.

Although often referred to as “eunuchs”, many of Pakistan’s hijras have not undergone gender reassignment surgery, according to campaigners. The medical and psychological services available in other Asian countries, such as Thailand, are either absent or operate in the shadows. A plastic surgeon in Rawalpindi, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would only operate on hijras after hours.

“It would not raise the prestige of the clinic if they were seen,” he said.

The surgeon said he also treated a minority of women seeking gender ­reassignment surgery.

“They come in with bandages on their breasts, which causes ulcers and lesions, threatening to commit ­suicide if we don’t operate,” he said.

Back at the party in Rawalpindi a group of men wearing regular shalwar kameez, loose trousers and tunic, watched from the back of the room. They were the “sponsors” — often married men who keep hijras as mistresses.

The men watched silently, filming with their mobile phones, but sometimes stepped forward to cast bundles of 10 rupee notes over their favourite dancers — and in so doing, sent banknote images of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, fluttering to the ground.

An unlikely revolutionary

The man leading the hijras’ modern crusade is an unlikely warrior: a lawyer who specialises in Islamic law. Islamabad barrister Muhammad Aslam Khaki instigated the supreme court cases last year after reading about a brutal incident in Taxila, near the capital, where police allegedly robbed and raped a group of eight hijra wedding dancers.

“People don’t consider them as human beings. They don’t like to eat with them, drink with them or shake their hands,” he said. “But they are full citizens of Pakistan like everyone else.”

It is not the first time the softly-spoken lawyer has challenged Pakistan’s status quo. Last year Khaki persuaded a federal Islamic court to overturn the punishment for drinking alcohol — 40 lashes of the whip — on the basis that it was not in accordance with the Qur’an. Later, he won a declaration that prisoners should be allowed conjugal rights with their wives during visiting hours — also, he says, a little-known provision of Islam.

“Ours is the most misunderstood religion,” he said.

But his advocacy for hijras is a bridge too far for some. He has received death threats from Shabab e-Milli, an offshoot of the youth wing of Pakistan’s main religious party, Jamaat e-Islami. “They say I am protecting the gay culture. But I am protecting them from the police culture of torture and sex abuse.” Declan Walsh

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Chavez: US ‘Tectonic Weapon’ Caused Haiti Quake

A ‘tectonic weapon’ under testing by the United States caused the Haiti earthquake, according to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who appears to have more of a sci-fi background than we all thought.

“President Chavez said the US was ‘playing God’ by testing devices capable of creating eco-type catastrophes, the Spanish newspaper ABC quoted him as saying.

“Chavez said the killer earthquake followed a test of ‘weapon of earthquakes’ just offshore from Haiti. He did not elaborate on the source of his claim,” according to Press TV.

Apparently, the media in Venezuela have reported that the earthquake “may be associated with the project called HAARP, a system that can generate violent and unexpected changes in climate.”

HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a study run in Alaska directed at the occasional reconfiguration of the properties of the Earth’s ionosphere to improve satellite communications. The project receives funding from the US Air Force, the US Navy, the University of Alaska and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

Fans of the LucasArts game Fracture (perhaps Hugo Chavez among them) may recall weaponry like Tectonic Grenades that create “terrain deformation” as a part of game play (see photo).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


England is Where We All Want to End Up…

FRENCH authorities were last night accused of shamelessly washing their hands of the battle to prevent illegal immigration to Britain.

The row flared as a new base camp was opened yesterday in Calais to help migrants illegally enter Britain.

Ironically, it is in the town’s Place d’Angleterre — England Square.

Last night Tories slammed the camp and the massive influx into Britain as “an example of Gordon Brown’s lax immigration policy.”

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Any attempt to rebuild a camp at Calais would be a disaster for Britain. We need proper co-operation from the French in fighting people smuggling.”

And Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, West Yorks, said: “One of the main reasons they come is because they know once inside Britain their chances of being kicked out are nil.”

Local charities in the ferry-port town have built the 2,000 sq ft shelter to help the 1,000 UK-bound immigrants sleeping rough on Calais streets.

Yesterday delighted migrants said that they hoped to use the new centre as a springboard to the UK.

Afghani ex-student Said, 21, said: “I should have somewhere to stay, especially when temperatures are so low.

“Word has spread quickly about this centre. Our only ambition is to get to England where we will claim asylum.”

The centre is already being dubbed Sangatte II after the former Red Cross centre which attracted thousands of illegal foreigners before being razed in 2002.

The facility will provide food, shelter and asylum-claim advice for the estimated 50 migrants a day boarding ferries and trains to England, where most then disappear into the black economy.

Now it is feared it will attract even more migrants across Europe — just months after France’s Immigration Minister Eric Besson claimed that our shared borders are “watertight”.

Yesterday news of the camp not only angered Calais locals — who fear it will be like a beacon to thousands more immigrants — but also Britons campaigning for a tougher immigration policy.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrant Watch UK, told the Daily Express: “This is getting increasingly ridiculous. France is a safe country for refugees. If they are genuine, it is for the French to give them refuge. If they are bogus, it is for the French to return them to their home countries.

“Instead, they are waving them on to Britain, which they clearly regard as a much softer touch than France.”

Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Our government is always bragging about having a seat at the top table in Europe, and so they should speak to the French government and stop the establishment of this camp which will only bring great expense and heartache to British taxpayers.”

A spokesman for the SOS refugee and homeless charity said: “We don’t envisage any legal problems.

“This is a humanitarian gesture — we’re putting the shelter at the disposal of the migrants.”

He added: “There are showers, bathrooms and toilets. It will be heated and there will be blankets and beds.” The fact that the new hangar is on Place d’Angleterre has not been lost on the charity workers.

“It’s very appropriate,” said one. “England is where almost everyone who stays here will want to end up. We’ll be able to look after hundreds at a time.”

But furious Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart vowed to tear it down, saying: “It’s scandalous. I’ll do everything possible to stop them using it.

“I don’t want another Sangatte. The people responsible for this are walking over ordinary Calasiens.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Italy: Police Arrest 10 Immigrants in North

Milano, 29 Jan. (AKI) — Police near the northern Italian city of Milan have arrested 10 immigrants as part of an operation targeting illegal immigration and drug dealing. Among those arrested by paramilitary Carabinieri police in the Legnano area outside Milan were two Tunisians, and an Egyptian, who have been served with expulsion orders, and a 43-year-old Moroccan.

A total of 44 foreigners’ documents and 50 cars were checked in the operation, in which police identified 104 people.

The conservative Italian government led by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed to crack down on illegal immigrants, which many Italian associate with a growing security problem in their towns and cities.

On Thursday Berlusconi signalled a tougher line on illegal immigration in new emergency measures announced to tackle organised crime.

Under a law passed last July, people entering Italy without permission face fines of up to 10,000 euros and immediate expulsion. Anyone renting housing to an illegal immigrant faces up to three years in prison.

The law also provides for citizen anti-crime patrols in towns and cities and triples the amount of time illegal immigrants can be detained in holding centres from two to six months.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Let Them Leave: Why Migration is the Best Solution for Haiti’s Recovery

Long before the calamity in Haiti, many Haitians and their families benefited from working abroad, and many, including me, have suggested allowing more Haitian immigrants into the United States as a way to help the country’s economy recover.

It might seem strange that the best solution to Haiti’s woes lies outside its borders, but migration and remittances have been responsible for almost all of the poverty reduction that has happened in the island country over the past few decades. They have done enormously more good than any policy intended to reduce poverty inside Haiti during that time. Any poverty-reduction strategy for Haiti going forward that does not include what has been Haitians’ most successful poverty-reduction strategy to date is not a serious one.

This idea is a no-brainer if we take a minute to look at the numbers.

First, Haitians have already emigrated in droves. There are around 535,000 Haitian-born U.S. residents at the Census Bureau’s last count, out of roughly 1 million in total living abroad.

The vast majority of Haitians who have escaped poverty have done so by leaving the country. Pick any reasonable poverty line for Haiti; the vast majority of Haitians above it no longer live there. In a study I did with Harvard’s Lant Pritchett, we chose a bare-bones poverty line of $10 per day (measured as a living standard at U.S. prices). That’s total destitution — just a third of the $30 per day that the United States considers “poverty” for a single adult. Eight out of 10 Haitians above that line currently live in the United States…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Italy: Senate Freezes Abortion Pill

Health ministry asked for second opinion on RU486

(ANSA) — Rome, November 26 — The so-called abortion bill at the center of a six-year tug of war between Italian pro-life and anti-abortion advocates hit another roadblock on Thursday when a Senate health commission delayed its approval and asked the health ministry for a second opinion.

The RU486 pill was given the green light last summer by the Italian medicines agency, AIFA, which ruled to allow the RU486 pill to be used in hospitals as an alternative to surgical abortion up to the 49th day of pregnancy.

In September, the Senate health committee launched an inquiry over concerns the pill could endanger women’s health or violate abortion laws, prompting AIFA to postpone making the drug available.

On Thursday, the committee approved a motion by Senators from the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) and Northern League parties to stop the drug’s approval and ask the health ministry to decide whether the pill violated abortion laws.

As of 1978, women in Italy have the right to terminate a pregnancy on demand within the first 90 days, after which termination may only be carried out if the mother’s health is at risk or the foetus is deformed.

But Welfare Minister Maurizio Sacconi, who retains the health ministry portfolio, said on Wednesday that “Italy’s abortion laws weren’t conceived with a pharmaceutical solution in mind”.

In the past, he has expressed his doubts that the Italian health system was capable of enforcing a use of the pill in line with the strict Italian laws regulating the termination of pregnancies.

All of the votes against Thursday’s motion came from centre-left opposition parties, who accused Catholics in the majority of masking their true intentions to have the drug banned.

Senate whip for the opposition Democratic Party (PD), Anna Finocchiaro, said “instead of admitting what they really want, they’re hiding behind a lot of blather”.

Italian consumer group Aduc also reacted angrily to the ruling, saying it enforced a law “requiring abortions to painful”.

The association accused pro-life centers of “lacking the courage to take on current abortion laws, preferring an underhanded campaign to keep abortions as painful as possible”.

Aduc pointed out that the drug had been in use for over 20 years in France and eight years in the United States “without any problem,” asking Senators what they thought the health ministry would turn up that two decades of clinical trials hadn’t.

RU486, or mifepristone, was first introduced in France in 1988 and is now used widely in Europe apart from some of the more Catholic countries such as Portugal, Ireland and Poland.

It has been approved for use in the United States since 2000.

But the chairman of the Catholic-Centrist UDC, Rocco Buttiglione, party defended the decision saying it “fell on the side of caution”.

“It’s important to be absolutely certain that this drug is safe and conforms with the law on abortion,” he said.

Recent health ministry figures suggest that 70% of all Italian gynaecologists are now ‘conscientious objectors’ who refuse to carry out abortions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General


IPCC Again Shown to be Liars!

This is the fourth exposé of IPCC lies and deception to emerge in the past two weeks. This time the lies are documented in a scientific paper, issued 27th January, 2010 (‘Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?’ by Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts, in the SPPI Original Paper series. Copies from the Science and Public Policy Institute).

The incriminating paper shows how the IPCC eliminated GHCN weather recording stations, starting in 1990. In the 1970s there were more than 6000 GHCN stations that helped to give average temperatures. In 1990 the IPCC dropped all but 1500 of these stations. Therefore, the same method of calculation was used even though the number of stations providing measurements fell to less than one quarter of all stations. This is one reason why the Russians warned the figures were fake. I also mentioned this in my book. So, the facts are indeed out there… but who wants to bother with mere truth?

It is a simple fact that if the number of measurements went down by three quarters, then the size of anomalies must grow with it. That is, the areas covered by the remaining stations must be huge, with many variables in between.

But that is only the start. The IPCC then based their fake figures on stations that were mainly sited in the USA, and in places affected badly by urban heating! If that isn’t fakery, then what is?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Ah, Pity the Poor Sheep !

This post is dedicated to the Okie Lurker, riven as he is with confusion…



A bit of history from my favorite “Economics for Fun” blog, The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid:

Donkey and SheepTHE YEAR IS 1947… Some of you will recall that on July 8, 1947, a little over 60 years ago, witnesses claim that an unidentified flying object (UFO) with five aliens aboard crashed onto a sheep and mule ranch just outside Roswell, New Mexico. This is a well known incident that many say has long been covered up by the U.S. Air Force and other federal agencies and organizations.

However, what you may NOT know is that in the month of April 1948, nine months after that historic day, the following people were born:

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Albert A. Gore, Jr.
Hillary Rodham
John F. Kerry
William J. Clinton
Howard Dean
Nancy Pelosi
Dianne Feinstein
Charles E. Schumer
Barbara Boxer

See what happens when aliens breed with sheep and jackasses?

The man has just explained the whole phenomenon of all those people who came of age in the 60s and made such a royal muck of things. I knew it! Surely, I thought, there is a simple answer out there for such a huge evil.

Alas, these creatures are still with us for a while yet and then they will fade…unless…unless…what if the UFO comes back? Ah, no…pity the poor sheep and jackasses.

Of course, there is always the other side of the story. Boring.

A Serbian Apology to Muslims

Someone is always apologizing to Islam. More often than not it’s a Christian who does it, and we’ve seen both Catholics and Protestants step up to the podium to take their turns begging forgiveness for their sins against the Ummah.

Now it’s the turn of the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Patriarch in Serbia said certain things in a newspaper interview that offended Muslims, and as a result has to eat some crow. A lot of it.

According to ANSAmed:

Serbia: Patriarch Apologises to Offended Muslims

BELGRADE, JANUARY 29 — On the day following a tide of protest from Serbia’s Muslim community over some of the statements made about Islam by the new Serb Orthodox Patriarch, Irinej, the Patriarch himself has offered an apology, thus quenching a row which might well have spread to damage relations between representatives of the two religious groups.

“I express my deepest regret for the statements I made and for the consequences they had, and I apologise sincerely to our Muslim fellow citizens and brethren”, Irinej said in a communiqué issued by the Patriarchate. The head of the Serb Orthodox Church stressed in his missive that he fully recognised and respected the identity, standing and integrity of Muslims as individuals and of the Moslem community as a whole.

The Patriarch is engaging in the customary Full Grovel, an act that has become depressingly familiar to those of us who live in the more western regions of Christendom. He’s very, very sorry; he failed to show respect; but he promises to make up for it.

So what was it that Patriarch Irinej did that was so terribly, grievously, wrong?
- – - - – - – - -

The Muslim community had raised a protest at Irinej’s words spoken during an interview on Wednesday given to the Belgrade daily Blic. Replying to a question about Kosovo, (whose population has an Albanian majority of Muslim faith) he noted, among other things, that: “the Serbs (of Kosovo) are a minority in their own land. Apart from which, we know what the philosophy and psychology of Islam is. When they (the Muslims) are a minority they are capable of behaving well. But when they are on equal numerical terms they start to lift their heads, and once they are in the majority they start to turn the screw”. [emphasis added]

If these statements are offensive, then we are all in deep trouble.

Anyone who has studied the history of Islamic infiltration and conquest knows that the Patriarch spoke the simple factual truth: Muslims remain quiescent in any given population until their numbers are sufficient, and then they begin making demands and acting aggressively until they finally assume political power.

These patterns may be easily ascertained by studying the history of Islam. The process is not occluded or mysterious; it is simply the behavior mandated by Islam’s own sacred texts, and has been actualized repeatedly over the centuries in those regions which eventually became part of Dar al-Islam.

However, the world’s 8.89 septillion Muslims immediately became upset, as is their wont:

The Muslim community reacted quickly by calling these words ‘offensive’ and calling for an apology from the Patriarch.

In today’s communiqué of apology, Irinej nonetheless pointed out that the paper had omitted several passages from the interview in which he had pointedly said that “we are all part of God’s creation and so we are called upon to overcome all existing differences through human compassion and to live together in love and mutual respect”.

I have a dream.

In my dream, a Christian leader of great standing, dressed in full regalia — a pope, say, or a patriarch, or a cardinal, or an archbishop — draws his sword from its scabbard and holds it high, proclaiming defiantly:

“The legions of Mohammed are the servants of Satan, and I vow to fight them to my last breath!”

But it’s just a dream. It’s not going to happen, not in my lifetime.



Hat tip: Insubria.

Advised by the Toilet Duck

Free Geert banner


Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated an op-ed by Geert Wilders and Martin Bosma from today’s De Volkskrant.

VH includes these explanatory notes:
ch

Toilet Eend (“Toilet duck”), or WC-eend, is a toilet bowl cleaner like this one.

The NSB was the Dutch National Socialist Party during World War Two.

This op-ed concerns the IVA report mentioned in last night’s post at Gates of Vienna.

And his translation:

Toilet duck advising Guusje ter Horst

by Geert Wilders and Martin Bosma

Minister of the Interior Ter Horst is using research to influence my trial and harm the PVV.

Does the Church of the Left still know any shame, still have any desire left somewhere for truth and honesty? It is difficult to see any after the release of the report “Polarization and Radicalization in the Netherlands”. It is almost painful to see how the lefties are forced to squirm to justify their hatred and supply their project with its last remaining oxygen.

Philosophy of Destruction

This is the essence: for decades the left wing has lined itself up as the water carrier for Islam. It supports, facilitates, and funds a totalitarian ideology of conquest — with its most important service being the opening of the immigration floodgates. After fourteen centuries of jihad, the philosophy of destruction has booked a huge success because of this. The Netherlands must and shall aim for the multicultural utopian state. All resistance is useless and will be countered vigorously. Everything that deviates from the party line will be taken on rock-hard by the leftist elite and stamped “Nazi”. A short half-hour state broadcast provides a dreary queue of NSB! NSB! announcers. Come on in, great thinkers like Herman van Veen [a singer who compared the PVV to the NSB because both lacked membership; though n fact the NSB had one hundred thousand members] and Peter R. de Vries [TV crime-show host who blasted Bram Moszkowicz for defending Geert Wilders].

Toilet DuckEls Lucas of the PvdA [Socialists] was one of the plaintiffs last week in the trial against freedom of expression. To ease her work for the party, minister Ter Horst (PvdA) had already opened a new front. She hired Jaap van Donselaar to fix her PvdA. Van Donselaar is from the Anne Frank Foundation, which in 1984 was described by former State Secretary Ploeg as a crypto-communist organization. Director Hans Westra is a member of the PvdA. And what does the Toilet Duck advise? Well, the Toilet Duck advises Toilet Duck. Ter Horst gets exactly what she wanted: the PVV has been branded again. And the timing is perfect. Just before the beginning of part two of the trial. If they cannot win it with the electorate, then try another way.

Malicious

- – - - – - – - -

By not distancing herself from this malicious report and by sending it to Parliament at this time, Ter Horst makes herself especially guilty of directly influencing the political trial. And what does that bet with tax money deliver? A quote: “Ideologically, there are definitely certain elements of radical right ideas to be found in the PVV, such as a positive orientation to ‘one’s own’, a dislike of ‘the foreign’ and of political opponents, and a penchant for the authoritarian”.

Since when is a positive orientation to ‘one’s own’ part of the radical right? Wouter Bos [PvdA, vice PM] preaches a “civilized form of nationalism” and declares himself “proud of the Netherlands”. This once again demonstrates that the multicultural project and democracy go together poorly.

Is that kindly Wouter now also a Nazi? When will he come out of the closet as an NSB member? Was Willem Drees Sr. [former PvdA MP, who gave up his membership in 1972 because he strongly disagreed with New Left tendencies] oriented to ‘his own’ or to those of another country? And Saint Obama, who is put up on the wall in many a left-winger’s bedroom, certainly orients himself one hundred percent towards his own, considering the American flags and patriotic language. Even so, is he radical right? And all those immigrants with their homesick satellite dishes: they, too, orient themselves towards ‘their own’. Are they all also the new radical right?

Dislike

The Freedom Party is also accused of having an aversion to ‘the foreign’. Once again it is never good. One moment we are accused of being in America or Israel too often, and the next we suddenly have an aversion to ‘the foreign’. The reality: few parties are more the subject of international discussion than ours.

We even have a website in English. While other party leaders are hardly active just across the border crossing at Wuustwezel, the PVV stands her ground in Rome, Copenhagen, New York, or Los Angeles. Check the columns of the Wall Street Journal or the broadcasts of CNN or Fox News about it. That dos not really show an aversion to ‘the foreign’.

Dislike of political opponents. Well, though, that is in fact correct, when they are of the stature of Jaap van Donselaar — of the little leftist clique that is called the Anne Frank Foundation.

That foundation abuses a little murdered Jewish girl for their own agenda. People of that kind will indeed find an enemy in us. But otherwise we are friendly to everyone. The grimness that the leftist fellow sometimes displays is strange to us. The castigating and demonization (watch just once the Pauw & Witteman TV show for fifteen minutes) we will leave with pleasure to third parties. We will remain friendly.

The fourth charge of the thought police: that we lean to ‘the authoritarian’. Those pseudo-scientists cannot even substantiate the charge. Did the subsidy money run out? Could they not find the motion in which the PVV proposed to abolish democracy? Or did they just not want to play up the ‘authoritarian’ the too much, because it might draw attention to the sponsoring party: Minister Ter Horst. She is doing something that properly belongs in authoritarian countries: the state assessing and stigmatizing political parties. In democracies it is the other way around: there the political parties assess the government.

This once again shows that the multicultural project and democracy do not go well together. Now here is something that should be researched: where does the minister get the nerve to judge political parties?

Geert Wilders and Martin Bosma are president and secretary respectively of the Parliamentary Group of the PVV.

Reality vs. Gummint’s Man Behind the Screen

Is it any wonder no one trusts the words issuing from politicians’ mouths? Here’s a video from a site I found via Twitter:



Free budget software – Mint.com


The government is telling us that the economic stimulus is working and the recession is over. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at the unemployment numbers. While we may have dodged another great depression, unemployment is at its worst since then, having fallen to 10 percent by the Fed’s own reckoning. And, while we don’t like to be the bearers of bad news, we do stand for transparency in reporting statistics. So we’ve produced an animated infographic explaining who gets to call themselves ‘officially’ unemployed, and why the government leaves out millions of jobless Americans in their often cited and repeated unemployment rate statistic.

If anyone has the real unemployment numbers broken down into categories by types of work, age, race or gender, I’d love to see them. Just leave a link in the comments so this post can be updated. I read in The New York Post several months ago that the real rate of unemployment for males between the ages of 18 and 24 was about 70 percent and that was across racial lines. Since then I’ve not happened upon any other concrete information.

Fortunately, in America, statisticians are still willing/able to publish the truth in this area, and the truth is that young black men will bear the brunt of this ‘recession’ despite Joe “La Boca Grande” Biden’s claim that none of the stimulus money would go to white males. Aside from ACORN employees and government make-work jobs, ask young black males about their job situation.

For middle-aged workers like the Baron or, say, USAPatriot, job prospects aren’t bright…
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…at least not in their current line of work, or what used to be their “current” work.

The unemployed who write us are becoming disheartened. Even the employed are having a rough time. One commenter reported via email that her husband, whose company was once located in the U.S., must now face extended commutes by air to visit his customers and his workplace, all in other countries. This fellow, and many others like him, will face long-term immunity and other health problems if such a draconian travel schedule continues for any length of time. Not to mention what it must do to the quality of his family life. He’s not young anymore; with family obligations he can’t just blow the job and look for something less stressful. At his age, finding employment would be problematic anyway.

The only growth in the American economy has been in government jobs. Private sector jobs have been dropping since 1999. That sad, depressing fact is borne out by the recent referenda passed by Oregon. Lots of money for teachers’ pension funds, but the rest of the populace, along with the businesses to hire them, can just vote with their feet if they don’t like it. Unfortunately for Oregon, the young will do exactly that: head out for greener job pastures.Lots of people are doing the same thing.

Following the President’s address to the nation this past week, Rasmussen has an essay on the lack of trust in government. He calls it a “deficit of trust”:

It’s important to note that the deficit of trust applies to all politicians, not just President Obama. “Americans are united in the belief that our political system is broken, that politicians are corrupt, and that neither major political party has the answers,” according to Scott Rasmussen in his new book, In Search of Self-Governance,

Seventy-five percent (75%) of Republican voters say their party’s representatives are out of touch with the party’s base. Other data shows that, among all voters, 45% believe people randomly selected from the phone book would do a better job than the current Congress. Only 36% disagree. Overall, only 12% say that Congress is doing a good or an excellent job.

On all the points raised in the president’s speech, there is a huge partisan divide. On the question of cutting taxes for 95% of Americans, hardly any Republicans or unaffiliated voters believe it’s true. However, Democrats are evenly divided: 34% say the tax cuts have been delivered, 29% say they haven’t, and 38% are not sure. [go to the essay for all his links - D]

You may want to look around on Mint, the site which carried the video. It has a broad variety of information on the economy and the changes taking place across the country. Their interactive maps have a lot to say about the state of our union.

More Speech, More Freedom

Our Austrian correspondent AMT, moved by such recent events as the legal actions against Geert Wilders and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, has written an essay about the parlous state of free speech in Europe.



“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltaire

by AMT

As many of us are aware — some more than others — freedom of speech has been changing. Those of us who believe in and fight to protect the concept of democracy can clearly recognize the gradual erosion of this noble and important freedom. There is growing concern that freedom of speech and its provisions in the law are being used more and more to do stifle opinions, and — even more worrying — truths.

Wikipedia informs us that

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak without censorship and/or limitation. The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes used to indicate not only freedom of verbal speech but any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as on “hate speech.”

Yes, the dreaded hate speech. The “killer phrase” of political correctness, which is threatening the physical freedom of freedom lovers and defenders like Geert Wilders, Ezra Levant, and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. All three use their right to free speech to speak about Islam. All three have been summoned — and Geert Wilders even prosecuted — by the state.

The main problem with the charge of hate speech is that it includes nearly everything under the sun:

Hate speech is speech perceived to disparage a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group, such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, skin color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting.

Now take this concept in conjunction with what the elites of the European Union impose on their population:

Council Framework Decision 2008/913/Jha
of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law
Has Adopted This Framework Decision:
    Article 1
    Offences concerning racism and xenophobia
    1.   Each Member State shall take the measures necessary to ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable:
        (a)   publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin;

The careful reader and defender of democracy immediately asks: What is the definition of racism? What is the definition of xenophobia? None is given. However, one concept is clearly defined: Islam is considered not only a religion, but also a race, which transforms any criticism of Islam into racism, the worst charge of all.

What is more, racism and xenophobia can also be applied to “a group of people” who define themselves as members of a religion. One must thus come to the conclusion that statements criticizing the teachings of a religion can be considered racist and xenophobic.

Already back in 2005, the Council of Europe pleaded insanity by equating Islamophobia with anti-Semitism. Ali Sina sums it up:
- – - - – - – - -

The Council has reached the following decisions regarding the issue: Condemnation of any kind of intolerance and discrimination based on gender, race and religious beliefs in particular, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, the fight against these within the framework of the Council of Europe and the use of effective mechanisms and rules to combat these problems.

Thus, anti-Islamism as well as anti-Semitism will be dealt with within the framework of legal proceedings. The Council reports will include anti-Islamist movements. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) will closely monitor these movements. The Commission will record in which country anti-Islamism increases or how it is reflected.”

This is the beginning of the fall of Europe. Anti-Islamism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Islam is a belief system, Semites are a race. We can’t equate a race to a doctrine. Racism is sheer evil. Apart from the fact that no race is better or worse than other races, unless one is Michael Jackson, one can’t change his race. Instigating hate against a race is instigating hate against mankind. Doctrines that instigate racial hate must be condemned and those who engage in racial slurs must be brought to justice.

Prohibiting criticism of Islam is like prohibiting criticism of Judaism or Christianity. No one in his right mind would suggest criticism of these religions should be banned. The very fact that these religions have reformed and have adapted to modern times is because they were criticized. Only during the inquisition, criticism of Christianity was against the law. Are we trying to introduce Islamic inquisition to appease Muslims? Are we trying to institute the blasphemy law that is practiced in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran to make Muslims happy? This is insane!

One wonders who exactly is fomenting extremism. Consider Turkish prime minister Erdogan who is on the record reacting to the Swiss minaret ban:

“[This is a] sign of an increasing racist and fascist stance in Europe,” Turkish television Channel 7 reported on Tuesday. Islamophobia was a “crime against humanity,” just like anti-Semitism.

Turkish president Abdullah Gül said the vote was a “disgrace” for the people of Switzerland and showed how far Islamophobia had advanced in the Western world.

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If a “citizen” of the EU may timidly make a suggestion to those in charge — whoever that might be — it would be the following:

1.   Prosecute racism by Muslims against non-Muslims;
2.   Define freedom of religion as an individual right and not a collective one.

Islam considers freedom of religion as a collective right of the Muslim community to live according to Islamic rules, even if these rules contradict secular laws. Non-Muslims consider it an individual right to live according to their beliefs within the private sphere, but in accordance with secular laws.

In light of the EU Framework Decision, the Austrian government is in the process of introducing a new law, which according to Andreas Unterberger, “will mimic China’s approach to freedom of speech.”

“Whoever publicly incites to hate against a group [detailed in a long list], shall be punished with a maximum of two years of imprisonment.” The same is valid for those who “insult or disparage” a group. This is what it says in a new law which is about to be passed without any public outcry.

All this in the name of “combating terror”. Unterberger adds,

Do not misunderstand me: I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who hate or insult. But terms that are not precisely defined may be used extensively by the judiciary to restrict freedom of speech. These terms [hate and insulting] belong to good upbringing, to religious education, but not in the claws of a government which, if need be, may use brutal force. […] In the future, one just has to say or write, with a slightly critical undertone, that nationals of X are involved in a significantly higher degree in the drug trade or that national of Y dominate the burglary “business”, or that members of sexual orientation Z are prone to certain transmittable diseases. […] And right away one is confronted with criminal proceedings.

[…]

It is unbelievable that no one in this country rises to the defense of freedom of expression protesting against this attack on the most important principle of the Enlightenment, namely freedom of opinion.

Similarly, but not surprisingly, the lack of interest in these measures appears generally manifested in American and European public opinion. Writes Paul Belien:

“… [This] is apparent with regard to the semi-legal initiatives taken at the level of the United Nations. On October 2nd, the UN Human Rights Council approved a free speech resolution, co-sponsored by the US and Egypt, which criticizes “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” […] Though the resolution has no immediate effect in law, it provides Muslim extremists with moral ammunition the next time they feel that central tenets of Islam are being treated disrespectfully through the creation of what they perceive to be an ‘offensive environment.’“

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Lesson Plans for Teaching the First Amendment tells us the following:

In the “marketplace of ideas,” we may choose which views to support and which ones to reject. When all ideas are allowed to flourish, we — as individuals — may decide what ideas and concepts to question, embrace or reject.

The antidote to distasteful or hateful speech is not censorship, but more speech.

Geert Wilders will not stop criticizing Islam, neither will Sabaditsch-Wolff or others. One may assume there will be more speech, rather than less.

Holder’s Feverish Plans: Law Via the Whim Theory

When the Obama administration came aboard there was some concern that they would effectively destroy the humint — human intelligence — gathering by various federal agencies charged with collecting information about those who wish to destroy us.

Via Rich Lowry’s National Review link on Twitter, there’s a Newsweek story on two of Holder’s recent setbacks in this department.

Being the MSM, this rag can’t resist opening with a snark attack against those who were worried about the safety of NYC . This concern was due to Attorney General Holder’s strange decision to have the KSM et al civilian trial take place in what would have been the shadow of the Twin Towers. That is, the shadows which would have been except for the evil machinations of KSM & his friends.

Get this little spin:

For weeks, the right has heckled Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for his plans to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in New York City and his handling of the Christmas bombing plot suspect.

“Alleged”? They admitted their guilt. What’s to allege? Oh, I forgot, the administration decided to give them constitutional protection. So now we have the polite fiction and moral disgust of “alleged”.

Those naughty “hecklers”! How rude of them to be concerned with the safety of New Yorkers and the cost of this unnecessary trial for killers who have already admitted their guilt.

And how tacky of them to criticize the administration for converting yet one more Yemen-trained terrorist into a special case civilian trial so that the failed destruction of Detroit can be seen through the lens of a perp who now has the right to remain silent… and will do so. Why don’t we just make all al-Qaeda operatives into American citizens and be done with it? These criminals are de facto citizens via their access to constitutional rights. Why not make it de jure and save a lot of time? All the shuck and jive this administration does as it protects people who try to kill us or produces gutless reports about those who do kill us, e.g., Major Hasan, is proof of either incompetence or cooperation with the enemy. Given its decisions in other areas, I’ll go with incompetence.

New York City as a venue for the KSM trial will stand as one of the dumber decisions in an administration that has almost too many dumbnities to enumerate. It wasn’t the “hecklers” on the right who got this moved. It was the refusal of New York City officials to participate in an assisted suicide decision by Attorney General Holder. New York police and citizens aren’t willing to die for Holder’s whims.

As for the second snide assertion… I forget, what was the purpose of attacking the al Qaeda bases if Yemen if we’re going to let their graduates into the country while attired in bomb-grade underwear? This is definitely a “don’t-let-the-right-hand-know-what-the-left-hand-is-doing” kinda group running things in Washington.

Of course, the White House has now moved the site of the KSM trials due to heckling, but no one knows where it’s headed yet. There’s a recent prediction that the Keystone Kops are maybe taking it all back to Gitmo for the circus. If so, at least the American populace will be safer:

The trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed won’t be held in lower Manhattan and could take place in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, sources said last night.

Administration officials said that no final decision had been made but that officials of the Department of Justice and the White House were working feverishly to find a venue that would be less expensive and less of a security risk than New York City.

“Working feverishly”, are they? The decisions to (a) go federal civilian for these 9/11 accomplices instead of using the military for a trial in which guilt had been substantiated and admitted by the perps, and (b) moving the mess to New York City, were surely decisions arising from some kind of swamp fever. Now Holder’s being forced to roll back at least one of those stupidities.

Meanwhile, back at Newsweak, the snark turns slightly more even-handed:
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Now the left is going to be upset: an upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.

Notice there is no mention of the heckling by the left — continuous and unrelenting — that these lawyers be put on trial for their “crimes”. No, the left doesn’t heckle, it just gets “upset”.

I haven’t yet read how upset they’re going to be when they find out that the show starring KSM is going to open in Gitmo instead of the Big Apple. Can you say “spittle-flecking hysteria”? This is another major betrayal by the One They Were Waiting For. Not only is Gitmo still extant, but The One & Co. are busy expanding its features: a civilian trial in a military installation.

It doesn’t get much more feverish or disorganized or incoherent than that.